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One of the stains on Democracy is “Dark Money,” that, anonymous donors who make large political contributions while masking their identity. The Koch brothers and other funders of corporate assaults on democracy used such conduits. In education elections, such groups as Education Reform Now and the California Charter School Association Advocates hide their donors names. A few years back, California held a referendum about raising taxes to support schools. Certain well-known billionaires publicly supported the tax but quietly funded a Dark Money campaign to defeat it.
The chief judge of the Federal District Court ruled that the names of all those who make political donations must be released, and the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal. This is great news for those who believe in transparency and democracy!
Advocacy groups pouring money into independent campaigns to impact this fall’s midterm races must disclose many of their political donors beginning this week after the Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to intervene in a long-running case.
The high court did not grant an emergency request to stay a ruling by a federal judge in Washington who had thrown out a decades-old Federal Election Commission regulation allowing nonprofit groups to keep their donors secret unless they had earmarked their money for certain purposes.
With less than 50 days before this fall’s congressional elections, the ruling has far-reaching consequences that could curtail the ability of major political players to raise money and force the disclosure of some of the country’s wealthiest donors.
In an interview, FEC Chairwoman Caroline Hunter said that the names of certain contributors who give money to nonprofit groups to use in political campaigns beginning Wednesday will have to be publicly reported.
Hunter and other conservatives warned the decision could have a chilling effect just as the midterms are heating up.
“It’s unfortunate that citizens and groups who wish to advocate for their candidate will now have to deal with a lot of uncertainty less than two months before the election,” said Hunter, a Republican appointee.
Advocates for stricter regulation of money in politics celebrated the move.
“This is a great day for transparency and democracy,” Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), which brought the case, said in a statement, adding: “We’re about to know a lot more about who is funding our elections.”
Yes, it throws “uncertainty” into the election when donors have to be known to the public.
Since Citizens United was approved by the Supreme Court, Big Money has been unlimited in campaign spending. Now it faces the “uncertainty” of being publicly identified.
“The Supreme Court’s decision comes less than a week after a new research report by the government reform group Issue One, which puts some dollar amounts on what these unreported donors are giving. The report, which took a year of research, finds that the top 15 politically active nonprofits raised and spent more than $600 million on campaigns between 2010, when Citizens United boosted secret fundraising, and 2016.
“The secret giving is made possible by a regulatory loophole at the FEC. The groups, usually organized as 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations or 501(c)(6) business associations, don’t register as political committees with the commission. With the loophole, the FEC wants donor disclosure only when a donor earmarks the money for specific ads.
“The top four spenders identified by Issue One are the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the mainstream conservative Crossroads GPS, the Koch network’s Americans for Prosperity and the National Rifle Association. Issue One says that collectively, the four groups pumped at least $357 million into elections between 2010 and 2016.
“Opaque organizations are using contributions from opaque donors and secretly funding election campaigns and ads that are urging viewers to vote for or against candidates,” said Michael Beckel, research manager at Issue One. “And it remains very difficult to track back the true sources of dark money groups.”
“Meanwhile, Americans for Prosperity has launched AFP Action — a superPAC that will regularly report its donors to the FEC, sidestepping the disclosure controversy.”