But the surprise is how the Center for Public Integrity found out that PhRMA was giving money to Freedom Path, a non-profit group.
Freedom Path, and similar groups, are exempt from disclosing who its contributors are. It only has to disclose donors whose funds are earmarked for specific political ads. Nor does PhRMA have to report a general donation to a non-profit political group.
During the 2012 campaign, Liljenquist complained to The Salt Lake Tribune about the lack of information on where Freedom Path got its money to fight him.
The information instead came from PhRMA's Form 990. The Internal Revenue Service requires non-profit groups such as PhRMA, the Boy Scouts of America and Ballet West to file the forms showing their income, major expenses and salaries for their highest-paid executives.
In this case, PhRMA's contribution to Freedom Path was noted, along with contributions to the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, anti-tax activist Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform and the liberal-leaning Citizens for Strength and Integrity.
Legally, 501(c)4 nonprofits such as Freedom Path, can raise unlimited amounts of money for political purposes, but must have a mission that is not tied to a particular candidate, nor can it coordinate with a campaign. Freedom Path states its goals are supporting a balanced budget amendment, lower taxes and reining in government spending.
While the 990s provide a glimpse at how much PhRMA put in, using the tax records to find the contributors is akin to looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack, as you have to have an idea of what groups are making contributions.
If you want to try your hand at reviewing 990s, Guidestar has forms from many organizations online.