Dark Money Organizations Ordered to Reveal Their Donors by Federal Judge

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A ruling by a federal judge concerning “
dark money” groups could fundamentally alter the optics of the 2018 midterms and future elections. 

The 113-page opinion resulted from a lawsuit filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington against the Federal Elections Commission (FEC). The lawsuit came in 2012, after the FEC declined to investigate Crossroads GPS, a conservative nonprofit and suspected dark money group.

Dark money groups are organizations who try to influence voters in political elections without revealing the sources of their funding. These groups can take the forms of 501(c) organizations, including but not limited to social welfare and charity groups, business leagues, unions or agricultural groups. A double-life as a dark money group can help an organization keep its political activism private and hide donors about whom it doesn’t want the public to know.

If they don’t reveal their donors or are funded entirely by 501(c) groups, super PACs can also be dark money groups. LLCs can be used as “shell companies” that allow dark money into our political system as well.

Previously, dark money groups took advantage of language in FEC regulations that allowed them to obscure their donor’s identities. The Supreme Court had an opportunity to intervene to uphold the FEC regulation after Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell struck it down, but declined to do so on Sept. 18.

In accordance with the judge’s ruling, dark money groups will have to begin revealing their funders on Wednesday, just a few weeks in advance of a pivotal midterm election cycle. Many campaigns and candidates may have to rethink how their electoral adventures are funded now that the sources of their money are to be made public. Advocates for transparency are hailing the ruling as a victory for voters, but advocates of donor privacy hope that the case will soon be appealed.

Dark money spending has increased significantly over the past decade, from $35.12 million in the 2010 election cycle to $65.27 million so far in the 2018 cycle.

The post Dark Money Organizations Ordered to Reveal Their Donors by Federal Judge appeared first on OpenSecrets News.

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