Tags: Dark money | campaign advertising | midterm elections

'Dark Money' Behind Many Campaign Ads

By    |   Friday, 10 October 2014 10:12 PM

Fifty-five percent of general election advertising for congressional races aired by outside groups has come from organizations that don't fully disclose their donors, The New York Times reports.

The so-called "dark money" is disclosed only on a federal tax return, typically filed more than a year after Election Day, on a form where donors' names can be redacted, the Times reports.

On the other hand, an analysis by the Times of ad data from the Campaign Media Analysis Group found 45 percent of campaign ads have been funded by super PACs all of which have to file disclosures with the Federal Election Commission.

The preponderance of secretly funded ads defies one of the underlying assumptions of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which paved the way for outside groups to raise and spend more money, the Times reports.

"There are assumptions in Citizens United that have never happened," Fred Wertheimer, the president of Democracy 21, which supports more disclosure, told the Times.

"The assumption that we would have real-time disclosure never happened. When we get to the 2016 election, the dark money is going to greatly explode."

According to an analysis by the Brennan Center for Justice, more than half of the reported outside spending in nine Senate races — in Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Colorado, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, Kentucky, and North Carolina — has come from anonymous donors.

Through Sept. 30, reported expenditures in the nine Senate races by groups shielding donors totaled $84 million.

"When Citizens United started, the reaction was, this is terrible because it opens the door to money from corporate treasuries," Lawrence Norden, a Brennan Center scholar, told The Times.

"But what you are really seeing is dark money and people using buddy groups to get around contribution limits."

The Times reports its analysis shows Democrats have aired far more advertising through super PACs, while Republicans have relied significantly more on advertising paid for with money from nondisclosing groups.

According to the Times, close to 80 percent of general election advertising by outside groups aiding Republicans has been paid for with secret money, donated to groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Freedom Partners — a trade association of donors with ties to Charles G. and David H. Koch — and Crossroads GPS, founded by Karl Rove.

Many donors who gave to to super PACs during the 2012 cycle have shifted part of their giving to nondisclosing groups, Republican strategists told the Times, including Sheldon Adelson, one of the biggest political donors in either party. The Times reports there's little known about how much the Kochs give to outside spending groups since virtually none disclose donors.

"Given the record of this administration in using regulatory agencies like the IRS in a retaliatory fashion, then it’s understandable that there’s concern about disclosure from a lot of individuals," Tim Phillips, the president of Americans for Prosperity, told the Times. "Donors on the left don’t have to have that concern."

By contrast, about three-quarters of general election ads aired by liberal-leaning outside groups during the 2014 cycle have been paid for by super PACs, particularly the Senate Majority PAC and the House Majority PAC, two organizations with close ties to Democratic leaders in Congress, the Times reports.

Unions have both aired their own ads and donated millions of dollars to Democratic super PACs.

But Democrats have secret money, too, the Times reports.

For example, the Senate Majority PAC works in tandem with Patriot Majority, a 501(c)(4) organization run by a former aide to the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, The Times reports.

Much of the secret money benefiting Democrats in ads has come through a network of regional and national environmental groups like the League of Conservation Voters and the Sierra Club, The Times reports.

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Fifty-five percent of general election advertising for congressional races aired by outside groups has come from organizations that don't fully disclose their donors, The New York Times reports.
Dark money, campaign advertising, midterm elections
Friday, 10 October 2014 10:12 PM
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