Republican Rigging Part 28: “Dark Money”
Written by Robert Warden
Two of the major consequences of the Citizens United decision have been the growth of “dark money” funding political campaigns, and superpacs.
Of the two, “dark money” causes the greatest lack of transparency in election funding, although I discovered that the amount of “dark money” is far less than is superpac money. Nonetheless, “dark money” is a very troubling phenomenon.
According to people who account for political monies, Republicans have benefitted from far more “dark money” contributions than have Democrats, as I believe was intended by the Supreme Court when they made the Citizens United ruling. (Although the source of such money has not been disclosed, the amounts of such contributions are supposed to be disclosed.) Moreover, the amount of “dark money” spent during each election cycle has been rapidly increasing (http://www.politifact.com/wisconsin/statements/2015/nov/05/tammy-baldwin/ten-times-more-dark-money-has-been-spent-2016-elec/).
Media Matters published an article in 2014 showing the growth of “dark money” contributions with each election cycle, and more pertinently, how disproportionately it has gone to Republican candidates. Furthermore, pundits on conservative shows such as Fox News have conveniently ignored this fact in discussing campaign funding (https://www.mediamatters.org/blog/2014/10/16/fox-news-ignores-dark-money-to-pretend-democrat/201188). Fortunately, organizations such as Open Secrets and the Sunlight Foundation have been keeping track of campaign spending sources and the recipients of such money as best that they can. Amounts received by Republicans were in the 100 million dollar range win 2012 and 2014, while Democrats only received around 20 million dollars of “dark money” during those election seasons. Clearly, the “dark money” phenomenon has remained one that has been dominated by Republicans, not surprisingly, and thus another prime example of Republicans rigging the system in their favor.
What exactly is “dark money,” anyway? In fact, according to Wikipedia, “dark money” in political campaigns actually has existed in the U.S. since the Buckley vs. Valeo Supreme Court decision in 1976. However, the practice has grown dramatically since the Citizens United decision, apparently because that decision allowed corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money on political campaigns. Wikipedia describes “dark money” as campaign money given to nonprofit organizations in unlimited amounts by corporations, individuals or unions, which are not legally required to disclose the sources of their funding (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_money). Superpacs, in contrast, are legally required to disclose who their donors are. Clearly, unions are being heavily outspent by wealthy business owners and individuals in terms of “dark money.” However, the identity of these people is not known.
What we can do to eliminate the scourge of “dark money” in politics is fairly clear. First, we need to take action to undo Citizens United, however we can. However, Citizens United is only one of a series of at least 5 troubling Supreme Court decisions which have paved the way for unfettered corporate spending on political campaigns in the United States, beginning with Buckley vs. Valeo in 1976 (which removed spending limits). What Citizens United did was to remove spending limits on campaigns by corporations as opposed to individuals. The rationale behind all of these decisions is basically that limits on campaign spending are a violation of the First Amendment, limiting so-called “free speech,” a specious argument intended to allow rich people to unduly influence the political process if I have ever heard one. Basically, this whole disgusting mess of unjust and unwise Supreme Court decisions needs to be repudiated. An amendment stating that corporations are not people can do away with the Citizens United, corporate part of this group of decisions, but something needs to be done to limit contributions by individuals as well, regardless of wealth. Publicly financed campaigns appear to be the ultimate solution to this issue.
Ten times more 'dark money' has been spent for 2016 elections, U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin says