Press Releases

ICYMI: Why Democrats Are Suddenly Putting A Focus On Dark Money [Huffington Post]

Sep 21, 2022

Reminder: There is only one party actively trying to get rid of dark money that is corrupting our democracy. Republicans have unanimously voted to protect dark money’s role in our politics every time DISCLOSE Act legislation has come up for a vote since 2010.

Huffington Post: Why Democrats Are Suddenly Putting A Focus On Dark Money

Paul Blumenthal and Igor Bobic

Key Points:

  • Democrats this week plan to draw a contrast with Republicans on the issue of disclosing so-called “dark money” in elections, scheduling a Wednesday vote in the Senate on legislation known as the Disclose Act.

  • This will be the first time in 10 years that the Senate will vote on the campaign finance proposal originally introduced in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), would require all groups spending money in elections or in support or opposition of a judicial nominee to disclose donations of $10,000 or more.

  • “It shows that this is a priority for the Democrats,” Adam Bozzi, spokesperson for End Citizens United, a PAC affiliated with the Democratic Party that advocates for campaign finance reforms, said in an email. “It’s both good policy and good politics.”

  • President Joe Biden even gave a prepared speech in support of the Disclose Act on Tuesday, another sign that Democrats see the issue as good politics ahead of the midterms.

  • “Dark money has become so common in our elections and I believe sunlight is the best disinfectant,” Biden said at the White House, referencing a famous line by Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis in support of transparency.

  • Recent polls show that the corrosive influence of money in politics remains a major concern for Americans. Seventy-two percent of Americans said that democracy is threatened in a late August CBS/YouGov poll. The “influence of money in politics” topped the list of such concerns, with 86% of those who felt that democracy is under threat citing it.

  • Threats to democracy also appeared as the top issue of concern in an NBC News poll released on Sept. 18, although when provided an open-ended question to explain what threats meant to them Democratic respondents mostly gave answers related to Donald Trump’s ongoing efforts to delegitimize elections.

  • Still, it is clear that Democrats see the corrupting influence of money in politics as an issue that excites their base and has strong cross-partisan appeal. It’s a big part of the reason they combined campaign finance reform, including the Disclose Act, with voting rights into their top messaging bill, the For The People Act, in both 2019 and 2021. And they and their affiliated outside groups are making it an issue in the midterm elections.

  • Senate Majority PAC, the leader Democratic Senate super PAC, partnered with End Citizens United for a $1.9 million ad buy on Sept. 16 hitting Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) tying the contributions he’s received from the oil and gas industry to the rising cost of gas. In House races, Democrats’ lead super PAC House Majority PAC has already put out ads knocking Republicans on issues related to campaign money in races in Maine and Michigan.

  • “There will be consequences to this vote and [End Citizens United] will work to make sure they are felt,” Bozzi said.

  • Current campaign finance disclosure rules require candidate and party committees, PACs and super PACs and 527 nonprofit groups to disclose their donors, but do not cover donations to nonprofits organized under section 501(c)(4) or 501(c)(6) of the tax code when they spend money to expressly advocate for the election or defeat of a federal election candidate.

  • This lack of disclosure emerged as an issue after the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United freed corporations, unions and other groups, including certain nonprofit groups, to receive and spend unlimited sums on electoral efforts. Following the decision, undisclosed election spending by nonprofits, known as “dark money,” surged north of $100 million in each of the last five elections.

  • “I acknowledge that it’s an issue for both parties,” Biden said, “but here is the key difference: Democrats in the Congress support more openness and accountability. Republicans in Congress, so far, don’t. I hope they’ll come around.”