(WATCH) Dark Money


As we move closer to the 2024 elections, the role that dark money plays in getting votes is a growing question. Scott Thuman follows the money on the impact of this type of campaign cash, and who’s getting the most.

The following is a transcript of a report from “Full Measure with Sharyl Attkisson.” Watch the video by clicking the link at the end of the page.

The term “dark money” appeared after a group called Citizens United wanted to promote this film, critical of Hillary Clinton, when she ran for president in 2008.

The Federal Election Commission said that would violate a longstanding ban on corporate money used to promote or oppose candidates during election season. But in 2010, the Supreme Court disagreed, ruling outside groups and corporations can spend unlimited amounts on elections.

What makes this money ‘dark’ is that those groups don’t have to disclose the names of all their donors, like candidates and campaigns do.

Scott Walter: And at the time, it only meant a narrow type of nonprofit, called the 501(c)(4), which is things like National Rifle Association and the League of Conservation Voters.

Scott Walter is president of the Capital Research Center, a conservative think tank tracking how dark money spending has evolved since 2010.

Walter: It’s now broadened in a sort of fairly fuzzy way to mean political money where the original donor is not disclosed.

Since 2010, the amount of dark money has grown quickly. About $1 billion was spent in the 2020 election. But when it comes to which side of the political aisle attracts the most of that kind of cash, you may be surprised.

Walter: In those first few cycles after the 2010 court decision, 2012, 2014, 2016, the amount of money in this channel of political giving did increase dramatically. And for those cycles, there was an advantage on the Republican side. In the 2018 cycle, 2020 cycle, 2022 cycle, there’s been lots more dark money on the Democrat side, and that isn’t reported as well.

Scott: Why do you say Democrats have such a big advantage?

Walter: The Democrat advantage in dark money, of course, stems from the fact that they are now the party of the rich and privileged. We’ve looked, for instance, at personal donations in the richest neighborhoods around New York, D.C., LA, and San Francisco, the richest and most powerful cities in America, and — surprise — they go to Democrats. If you think of the rich and privileged as being Fortune 500 corporations, well, they’ve now gone woke. They now give money more to left-wing causes.

According to the non-profit group Open Secrets that tracks political spending, in the 2020 election, four of the top five dark money groups were Democrat-aligned.

Scott: You can influence a lot of minds with that kind of money, can’t you?

Walter: Well, it is true that folks who are fighting for or against particular Supreme Court nominations, or for or against particular environmental regulations, a lot of that fighting does happen in this world. That’s true.

Scott: You talked about the 2020 presidential cycle. What are we seeing so far for this race?

Walter: Well there’s a lot less money that’s been revealed so far since we’re, at this point, only a little past halfway. In general, in 2022 and the current cycle, there doesn’t seem to be as much money going into the original dark money 501(c)(4) groups.

Scott: Do you think voters should know exactly where that money is coming from before they cast their ballots?

Walter: I sympathize with people who like to hear the phrase, “Well, we have a right to know where everybody’s money is coming from.” And we do for the vast bulk of dollars that are given to parties and candidates and traditional PACs — that is disclosed. But at the same time, I think about a pro-abortion woman in the Bible Belt: should her neighbors be able to know that she gave to Planned Parenthood, or the reverse? I think that citizens like that have a right to be able to engage in the political process without having to worry about a mob showing up at their door or losing their job, which, as we know, has happened many times.

As for the effect of dark money on politics, Walter thinks it isn’t as powerful as many believe, pointing out that in terms of total campaign spending, it’s still just a small part.

For Full Measure, I’m Scott Thuman in Washington.

Watch story here.

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1 thought on “(WATCH) Dark Money”

  1. “Rich people” fund Democrats today as protection money.

    They now see what Democrats can do with their total control over a weaponized deep state. Or when Democrats threaten to unleash union organizers upon them, if they don’t fall in line.

    Ka-ching! Protection money, just like the petty gangsters on any street in NYC.

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