More than $ 320 million in so-called “dark money” has helped boost Democrats in the White House and in congressional races – more than double the anonymous dollar that helped Republicans in this year’s federal election – according to a new analysis.
According to the center’s analysis, dark money qualifies as donations and expenditures by nonprofits that do not disclose the sources of the money. This includes money flowing into policy by limited liability companies acting as shell companies.
The trend toward Democrats has reversed sharply compared to previous presidential election cycles, in which dark money overwhelmed Republicans for the most part.
The new data comes as candidates, political parties, and outside groups, including those funded by nonprofits and hiding their donors — allowing a new wave of spending to Georgia to influence the two U.S. Senate processes that determine which party controls the chamber. According to CNN advertising data collected by the Kantar Campaign Media Analysis Group, more than $ 287 million in state television advertising purchases have been seized as of Wednesday.
Even as the spending frenzy continues, campaign finance supervisors are calling for President-elect Joe Biden and Capitol Hill lawmakers to take aggressive steps to curb anonymous spending in the election.
“It’s a rotten system, but as long as it exists, it will be used by both parties,” said Fred Wertheimer, who leads the Democracy Guard Group 21 and is a member of a coalition of more than 170 groups, and called on the incoming president. addressing issues ranging from voting rights to greater transparency in campaign finance.
“The test for us is: What are you going to do about the system?” Wertheimer said.
Biden’s helpers refused to comment on the record, but pointed to their decision that journalists could hear one sign of their commitment to transparency at campaign fundraising events.
They also note that the former vice president, a longtime supporter of state funding for federal candidates, has proposed comprehensive changes to address the role of money in politics. These proposals include passing legislation that would ban dark-money nonprofits from spending elections and create adequate public money for candidates looking for a small dollar contribution to encourage more local taxes.
The outcome of the Georgian Senate competitions may determine whether these proposals will move forward in Congress
According to the analysis, One Nation, an anonymously funded nonprofit organization linked to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky’s political operations, is the largest anonymous donor to date in federal competitions. He sent nearly $ 63 million to the Super PAC Senate Leadership Fund tailored to him.
One Nation’s anonymous money accounted for 20% of the Senate Leadership Fund’s total cargo.
The fund and its other political weapons recently announced that they will spend about $ 70 million on TV and radio commercials to sway Georgian races.
The analysis shows that liberal groups, led by a little-known organization called sixteen-thirty funds, make up a third of the donations of dark money that benefit Democrats.
The center amounts to $ 52 million from sixteen of the thirty funds for other groups active in the 2020 elections.
In recent years, the Sixteen Thirty Funds have emerged as the headquarters for left-wing groups, providing administrative, legal, and accounting services for liberal projects. Groups working as the Fund’s faculty include Demand Justice, which opposed President Donald Trump’s judicial candidates.
It also helped Democratic donors send money to other dark money groups that appeared during the 2020 election cycle to target vulnerable Republican senators. For example, nearly $ 4 million went to a nonprofit called Maine Momentum that crushed Republican Senator Susan Collins with early offensive ads. Eventually, Collins won over his democratic challenger, Sara Gideon.
The Fund also directed $ 300,000 to the Lincoln Project, which was a super PAC led by GOP operational staff that produced split anti-Trump ads.
Federal rules require nonprofits to publicly disclose the amount of each donation they receive, but are not required to provide the names or identities of donors.
Over the past two years, many donors “felt compelled to provide support for our democracy and our progressive goals in unprecedented ways, including those who had previously supported Republicans or not engaged in politics,” Amy Kurtz, the fund’s executive director, said in a statement.
But “given the divisive nature of politics today, some of these donors have chosen to remain anonymous,” he added.
Kurtz says the group wants to review current campaign finance laws, but will play by the rules currently in place.
Officials with Priorities USA action, the main super PAC that supported Biden’s campaign, echoed this. The super PAC relied on anonymous contributions through its nonprofit organization, Priorities USA. The analysis shows that these dollars accounted for just over $ 1 of the $ 5 raised from super PACs by mid-October.
“We haven’t unilaterally disarmed Donald Trump and right-wing conservatives,” said Guy Cecil, president of Priorities, “but I look forward to the day when unlimited money and super PACs are a thing of the past, even if it means our own PAC is not working. “
Obstacles to the Senate
The action monitored by the Democrats on Capitol Hill would bring far-reaching changes to the election, including obliging their non-profit, dark money groups involved in politics to donate more. This would give federal candidates as much as a 6-1 match for an audience for small donations.
The Democrat-led House last year adopted its plan, a bill called HR 1. But in the Republican-controlled senate, he found no trait. McConnell made no secret of his contempt for democratic efforts to transform the campaign finance system.
The January 5 geography in Georgia will determine whether McConnell will retain his remaining influence in the Senate and possibly the fate of campaign finance laws. Republicans currently occupy 53 seats, but have lost one in Arizona and one in Colorado and received one in Alabama.
If Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff overthrow Republican sentiment, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue in Georgia, elected Vice President Kamala Harris will cast a tie in the Senate.
Regardless of the outcome in Georgia, some activists hope Biden will be at the forefront of change – given the Senate’s long-standing support for election funding. (Biden first supported the law establishing state funding for congressional candidates in the 1970s.)
As president, Biden can also act on his own, for example, by requiring companies with a federal contract to publish their political spending, said Lisa Gilbert of the left-wing Public Citizen Guard Group. “We have ambitious expectations that we think will meet,” he said of Biden.
Meredith McGehee, executive director of the 1st edition and works with Democrats and Republicans on the transparency of campaign finance, owes Biden early support for state funding for the election. But he says: “How the administration will approach the dark money is a very open question.”
On Capitol Hill, however, he observed a trend: As Democrats become more adept at placing anonymous money, Republican senators are increasingly concerned about this.
“While Mitch McConnell can still call these issues into the shots, at the individual level, at the member level, he’s not a big fan of dark money,” McGehee said. “Republicans have new incentives to deal with dark money because it’s no longer just for them.”
David Wright and staff at the Adaptive Policy Center, Karl Evers-Hillstrom, Anna Massoglia and Andrew Mayersohn, contributed to the report.