Be Afraid of the Dark: How Dark Money Affects Elections

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Be Afraid of the Dark: How Dark Money Affects Elections

$5 Billion: estimated amount of money (dark and FEC transparent) spent by all federal candidates in 2014 election.
$200 Million: estimated amount of dark money spent in 2014 midterm election.

What is Dark Money:

Money not covered by federal disclosure rules meant to inform the public of who is paying to influence their vote.

It’s nothing new:
1904: During the 1904 campaign, New York Life Insurance secretly gave $48,000 ($1.25 million today) to the Republicans (Teddy Roosevelt).
1972: President Richard Nixon’s 1972 reelection campaign raked in $20 million in secret donations
2012: More than a billion dollars in dark money went towards groups advocating Obama’s re-election

Why spend so much money?
Answer: The more you spend, the more you win.
Here’s how often the higher spending candidates win

2004
U.S. House: 90 percent of the time
U.S. Senate: 85 percent of the time
2006:
House: 85 %
Senate: 70 %
2008:
House: 90%
Senate: 82%
2010:
House: 85%
Senate: 82%
2012:
House: 90%
Senate: 80%
Source: Center for Responsive Politics

Top 10 Dark Money Spenders in 2012*:

1. Center to Protect Patient Rights
Non-profit type: 501(c)4
Amount of money given: $55,740,985
Top recipient: American Future Fund
2. Sea Change Foundation 
Non-profit type: 501(c)3
Amount of grant money given: $26,986,150
Top recipient: League of Conservation Voters
3. Crossroads GPS (group run by Karl Rove)
Non-profit type: 501(c)4
Amount of grant money given: $13,875,000
Top recipient: Americans for Tax Reform
4. TC4 Trust
Non-profit type: 501(c)4
Amount of grant money given: $11,787,800
Top recipient: American Commitment
5. Donors Trust
Non-profit type: 501(c)3
Amount of grant money given: $8,832,250
Top recipient: Americans for Prosperity Foundation
6. Republican Jewish Coalition
Non-profit type: 501(c)4
Amount of grant money given: $8,000,000
Top recipient: American Action Network, Crossroads GPS (tie)
7. Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America
Non-profit type: 501(c)6
Amount of grant money given: $7,100,000
Top recipient: American Action Network
8. Green Tech Action Fund
Non-profit type: 501(c)4
Amount of grant money given: $5,775,300
Top recipient: League of Conservation Voters
9. Advocacy Fund
Non-profit type: 501(c)4
Amount of grant money given: $5,632,488
Top recipient: League of Conservation Voters
10. Alliance for Freedom
Non-profit type: 501(c)4
Amount of grant money given: $4,190,000
Top recipient: Alliance for America’s Future
*2014 estimates not yet available

*Dark Money groups as defined by IRS:
501 c3: charitable organizations
501(c)4 “social welfare” groups
501(c)5 union groups
501(c)6 trade associations

Can You Buy an Election?

During the 2014 midterm election cycle, $92.8 million total was spent on five Senate races in five states. Republican leaning groups outspent Democrats. Was it worth it? You be the judge.

Alaska
Arkansas
Colorado
Kentucky and
North Carolina

In all these close races: Republican Senate candidates won.
The highest dark-money spender: Crossroads GPS, an ally of the Republican Party, dumped $14 million into “toss up” races in October alone to total $24 million in expenditures.

dark-money

Sources:
http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2012/06/dark-money-501c4-irs-social-welfare
http://www.commonwealthmagazine.org/Voices/Conversation/2014/Winter/002-Dark-money-rising.aspx#.VF0cxnsvzpA
http://www.vox.com/2014/7/30/5949581/money-in-politics-charts-explain
http://cdn3.vox-cdn.com/assets/4606543/Dark_money_soaring.png
http://kstreet607.com/2013/06/05/the-top-10-dark-money-donors-that-we-know-of-sort-of/