The Washington Post published a deeply researched expose today about the “secret universe” of “charities” that fueled the election of Donald Trump.

Please understand before reading this that the Internal Revenue Service classifies organizations for tax purposes as 501(c)3 or 501(c)4. When Anthony Cody and I formed the Network for Public Education in 2013, we learned that we had to get IRS approval to raise money. Contributions to a (c)3 are tax-deductible. Contributions to a (c)4 are not tax-deductible. If we were a (c)3, we had to have broad charitable purposes and could not engage in any political or partisan activities, although we could lobby for legislation that met the purposes of the organization. To engage in political action or endorsements, we had to create a (c)4, with its own board. The (c)4 can be completely political, lobby for legislation, endorse candidates, but contributions are not tax-deductible. We hired a lawyer, followed the rules, and we often check with the lawyer to make sure we are always in compliance.

That is why we have two organizations. The Network for Public Education is a (c)3. Contributions are tax-deductible. It advocates for the improvement of public schools. It does not endorse candidates. We also created an organization called the Network for Public Education Action Fund, which is a (c)4. Contributions to it are not tax-deductible. It endorses candidates in states where we are allowed to do so, and endorses referenda.

As you read the article about the Shadow Universe, you will see references to foundations that are nakedly partisan. Yet, they are (c)4 tax shelters for the wealthy. They give only to rightwing causes that are unabashedly political, yet have (c)3 stats. You will see references to “charities” that are not charitable but political. They wage war against the left. They consider climate change a hoax. They think America’s universities are controlled by Communists. They think America is about to be taken over by “Islamofascists.” They want the federal government to spend billions on vouchers to remove children from public schools. When the IRS tried to crackdown on political organizations that masqueraded as charities, Republicans in Congress angrily denounced the IRS for going after conservative “charities,” and the IRS backed off. Now those “charities” have put Trump in the White House and captured the Republican Party.

So, one aspect of the article is the way the IRS code has been flagrantly ignored by rightwing activists, first, to shield family fortunes (like Bradley, Scaife, DeVos, Mercer, and many more) from taxation, but second, to enable rightwing political activists to raise tax-exempt contributions from the rich, who are always seeking ways to avoid paying for the government that protects them.

The article is also important because it exposes a little-known world of rightwing activism. It explains the origins of the ideologues on the fringe right who have seized control of the Republican Party.

You will understand Trump better if you read this article. His election represents the victory of a militant, angry, bitter group of extremists. They don’t give a hoot about working people. Trump is the point of the spear of a well-organized, well-financed powerful movement.