From Sheila Krumholz <[email protected]>
Subject The dark money behind the message
Date May 20, 2022 2:34 PM
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OpenSecrets tracked over $1B spent by dark money groups on television and digital ads meant to influence voters.

Readers like you fuel our investigations, and your support gives us the means to pull at the threads of elusive dark money networks. With our spring donor drive ending in four days, please donate today and help us uncover the money behind the message. ([link removed])
Dear Friend of OpenSecrets,

In theory, transparency is a cornerstone of democracy. In practice, it's often elusive.

One particularly murky area is the political activity of 501(c)4 "social welfare" organizations, where so-called "dark money" can be used to influence elections without the public knowing who's behind it.

On May 4th, former chairwoman of the FEC and OpenSecrets board member, Ann Ravel, testified in a Senate hearing ([link removed]) that current disclosure practices do not hold dark money groups accountable.

Under a recent rule passed during the Trump administration, 501(c)4’s are no longer required to report their donors ([link removed]) to the IRS. This has made it easier for these groups to spend anonymous funds on political activity.

Predictably, some of these groups become conduits for dark money spending. And since the passing of Citizens United in 2010, the IRS has investigated only 14 organizations to see if they were following the rules.

That’s less than two investigations per year.

In contrast, OpenSecrets traced over $1B spent by dark money groups ([link removed]) in 2020 to television and digital ads meant to influence voters.
“This dramatic increase in spending by financiers whose identities remain hidden from the very public they are paying to influence poses a serious threat to America’s autonomy and the public’s right to know who is influencing our elections and the policy decisions that come along afterwards.” - Ann Ravel, former FEC Chair
The role of anonymous funding in politics is controversial. Some see it as a way to ensure that donors are given their right to privacy. Others see it as a way for the wealthy to buy influence.

No matter where you stand, it’s hard to deny that when major donors remain anonymous, they can mold public opinion without drawing public scrutiny.

And if we can't know who's behind the message, we can't question its credibility or their motivations — which is exactly what they want.

Learn how dark money is getting darker ([link removed]) in our report on outside spending in the 2022 election cycle.
Thank you for following important transparency news,

Sheila Krumholz
Executive Director

P.S A huge thank you to the more than 50 people who have supported us for the first time this past week. Help us reach our goal to welcome 100 new money-followers by the end of the drive!
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