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Dark Money

Today, June 26, 2016, The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law released the report Secret Spending in the States, authored by Chisun LeeKatherine ValdeBenjamin T. Brickner and Douglas Keith, who found that fully transparent spending beyond the federal level “has declined from 76 percent in 2006 to just 29 percent in 2014 in six states where data was available!”

The New York Times says “When the history of elections in 2016 is written, one of the central points is likely to be how little voters knew about the donors who influenced the contests.”

According to Wikipedia “In the politics of the United States, dark money is a term that describes funds given to nonprofit organizations—primarily 501(c)(4) (social welfare) and 501(c)(6) (trade association) groups—that can receive unlimited donations from corporations, individuals, and unions, and spend funds to influence elections, but are not required to disclose their donors.”

“Dark money can outspend all,” said Larry Norden, deputy director of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law. In the “Democracy Agenda,” the Brennan Center outlines several steps we can take to boost participation and make elections more fair for average Americans, including:

  • Overturn the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision
  • Support automatic permanent voter registration
  • End partisan gerrymandering
  • Establish small donor public financing
  • Expand early voting
  • Restore the Voting Rights Act
  • Replace outdated voting machines
  • Restore the right to vote to people with past criminal convictions

Jane Mayer’s 2016 book Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right asserts that “a network of exceedingly wealthy people with extreme libertarian views bankrolled a systematic, step-by-step plan to fundamentally alter the American political system.”  Their core libertarian belief is that “taxes are a form of tyranny and government oversight of business is an assault on freedom.”

If you have 58 minutes, listen to this Prose and Politics bookstore talk by Jane Mayer.

Open Secrets Center for Responsive Politics also has a primer on dark money.