North Texas Daily

Bringing political dark money to light

Bringing political dark money to light

March 31
03:39 2016

Sidney Johnson | Staff Writer


If you’re unfamiliar with the term “dark money”, and its junction with presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Ted Cruz, this article should provide the appropriate enlightenment.

Most money in politics is publicly disclosed to the Federal Elections Commission to ensure citizens know exactly how much money a certain donor is contributing to each candidate.  To be more precise, the names of each donor who gives more than $200 must be given to the FEC.

The issue arises when some groups aren’t required to disclose their contributions — ergo “dark money.” Certain organizations aren’t required to provide information on which candidate(s) they’re funding, operating under the guise of “social welfare agencies”, which in-turn allows them both tax exempt status as well as financial anonymity.

The founder and president of Democracy 21, Fred Wertheimer, states: “history makes clear that unlimited contributions and secret money are a formula for corruption.”

Dark money organizations come in a few different forms, but politically active nonprofits and corporate entities are the most common. Although the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has regulatory oversight of these nonprofits and can repeal an organization’s tax-exempt status, little has been done to curb this influx of secret money in recent years.

Americans for Prosperity, a Death Star of dark money in politics, is the nonprofit headed by the conservative-billionaire-duo of Charles and David Koch, who controversially floated millions of dollars in recent years to political campaigns. It should also be noted that conservative dark money organizations dwarfed liberal ones spending by 8:1 in the 2012 cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

During the 2012 presidential election, dark money organizations funneled over $127 million into advertisements and expenditures for or against any of the eligible candidates. This figure is overshadowed only by the total $300-million spent in the 2012 election cycle.

Citizens United opened the floodgate for money in politics and contributed heavily in the expenditure of dark money in 2012. But under a portion of laws passed protecting the use of dark money in recent years, as well as those currently in consideration (Google: Arizona dark money), the practice is not in any condition to slow down.

The overlying point is that if we are to continue down this path, what might prohibit foreign money from influencing our political process?

Another example might be if a “green” voter respect their candidate accepting millions from BP or Exxon Mobile? The solution to these questions undeniably stem from a needed financial transparency in a world that already severely lacks such. Circumventing said transparency ironically highlights your motives, making them even more clear to those paying attention.

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