CBSN

Nonprofit with secret donors, linked to Rubio super PAC, raises millions

WAUKEE, IA - APRIL 25: Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) speaks to guests gathered at the Point of Grace Church for the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition 2015 Spring Kickoff on April 25, 2015 in Waukee, Iowa.

Scott Olson, Getty Images

A relatively new nonprofit -- with the same name as a pro-Marco Rubio super PAC -- has raised nearly $16 million to spend on issue-related ads in the 2016 election, the New York Times reports.

The robust fundraising haul illustrates how 2016 presidential candidates like Rubio may benefit from the new crop of secretive nonprofits that are playing a growing role in elections, thanks to a series of relatively recent court rulings.

The organization Conservative Solutions Project has already spent $3.3 million on television and radio advertising, the Times reports, focusing on Rubio's attacks of the Obama administration's Iran nuclear negotiations. However, the group told the Times that it's not devoted to any particular candidate.

As a tax-exempt "social welfare" organization -- in the 501(c)(4) category -- the group is allowed to spend unlimited sums of money on politics as long as politics isn't its main focus. That's why its advertising will be largely "issue based."

In most cases, these "social welfare" nonprofits aren't required to name their donors. A spokesman for Conservative Solutions Project told the Times it is unlikely to publicly name its donors.

The secretive nature of these groups has created the potential for corruption, several public advocacy groups and politicians have argued. While Congress hasn't done much about the rise of these "dark money" groups, leaders at the state level -- both Democrats and Republicans -- are trying to rein them in.