Dark money continues to grow in U.S. elections

Ever since the Supreme Court ruled spending caps on independent political advocacy groups violates the First Amendment in the 2010 case Citizens United v. FEC, so-called “dark money” has flooded American politics.

Despite attempts by a handful of states to require disclosure of the original sources of funding to super PACs, enforcement has been difficult.  As a result, the 2012 election cycle saw dark money finance $300 million worth of political advertising, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.  In the 2014 midterms, it accounted for $174 million.

By comparison, the 2006 midterm elections only had $5.2 million in undisclosed funds.

The solution to unanimous donations, for those who see it as a problem, was laid out in the very ruling that caused its meteoric rise.

Prompt disclosure of expenditures can provide shareholders and citizens with the information needed to hold corporations and elected officials accountable for their positions and supporters,” wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy in the Citizens decision.

Despite Kennedy’s suggestion, few states have passed laws requiring financial disclosure of political advocacy funding. Even those that have are still unable to obtain donor lists from organizations which receive money from other groups that are donated to anonymously.

Then there are those in positions of power who intend ward off efforts at campaign finance reform.  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell added language to the $1.1 trillion budget bill, which was signed into law on Friday, that prevents the Securities and Exchange Commission from enforcing any “order regarding the disclosure of political contributions”.

In addition, Sen. McConnell also was able to use the 2013 IRS targeting scandal as a reason to add another provision to the budget legislation which effectively prohibits the revenue service from prosecuting non-profit organizations for engaging in political activities.

Currently, there is no federal disclosure requirement for the sources of super PAC funding.  Among the states that have such laws are California, Montana, Maryland, and Rhode Island.

 

[AP] [RT News]