Democrats Battle GOP 'Dark Money' in Bid to Keep Senate

Wednesday, 25 Jun 2014 10:59 AM

By Drew MacKenzie

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Worried Democrats have launched a counterattack on outside conservative groups who are unleashing a fortune in "dark money" in a major push to help Republicans capture the Senate during the midterm elections.

Democratic senators introduced a bill on Tuesday called the Disclose Act that could force advocacy groups to reveal their wealthy donors, The Hill reports, noting that the legislation is likely to be vetoed just like similar bills in 2010 and 2012.

"Since the Supreme Court’s disastrous Citizens United decision, a torrent of dark money has swept through our political system giving corporations and billionaires the ability to buy and sell elections," said Rhode Island Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, the bill’s leading sponsor.

He was referring to a decision that the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting independent political expenditures by corporations, associations, or labor unions. The ruling basically allows them to spend unlimited sums of money in political campaigns as long as they are not direct contributions to candidates.

The Disclose Act requires advocacy groups that spend $10,000 or more on election ads to name their donors to the Federal Election Commission within 24 hours. Skeptics say the bill is just a ploy by Democrats to spark their own fundraising efforts, The Hill said.

While warning that outside conservative groups will probably outspend their liberal counterparts by a greater amount than in 2010 when the GOP captured the House, Sen. Charles Schumer said, "Clearly the outside groups are spending more than the individual campaigns and the party committees."

Noting that the situation is "getting worse every year," the New York Democrat added, "It’s not disclosed, and it’s usually done by a handful of individuals. I think it’s very unhealthy for our democracy."

In addition to the Disclose Act, Senate Democrats are backing a constitutional amendment that would give Congress the power to control campaign fundraising without the Supreme Court having a say in the regulations.

Earlier this month, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the amendment that "the flood of dark money" into campaigns has posed "the greatest threat to our democracy" he’s seen during his time in office.

According to The Hill, the real purpose of the two initiatives battling "dark money" could be to encourage liberal donors to make more contributions to Democratic causes, in part to fend off GOP mega-donors like Charles and David Koch.

The billionaire Koch brothers announced in May that their Americans for Prosperity group planned to spend $125 million on TV ads to push conservative candidates in the 2014 midterm elections

Calling it a "simply staggering" sum, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California has called on Democratic voters to donate $5-$250 to fight off the "unprecedented blow" from the Kochs.

Conservative outside groups have forked out $21.4 million this cycle without naming their donors, while their liberal counterparts have spent $7.4 million, The Hill added.

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