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Democratic ‘dark money’ machine ramps up ahead of 2024 elections, watchdog says

Democrat-aligned groups received about $84.5 million from dark money sources, while Republican-aligned committees took in just over $74 million, according to OpenSecrets.

Published: March 24, 2024 11:11pm

A record amount of untraceable funds are flowing into politics ahead of 2024’s key elections, with Democrat-aligned groups raking in the most cash so far, a report produced by watchdog group OpenSecrets has found.

Dark money groups donated roughly $160 million to political committees in 2023, the largest amount for this point in any election cycle since the Supreme A close-up of a signDescription automatically generatedCourt decided in Citizens United v. FEC that committees could spend unlimited money on political communications. Democrat-aligned groups received about $84.5 million from dark money sources, while Republican-aligned committees took in just over $74 million, according to OpenSecrets.

OpenSecrets’ report defined Democratic groups as those that spent money attacking Republicans or supporting Democrats. Republican groups were defined as those that either attacked Democrats or supported Republicans.

Groups that didn’t fit into either category were labeled “other” and accounted for about $2.4 million in political spending.

Democrats have received more support from dark money groups every election cycle since 2018, according to Open Secrets.

Federal law requires super PACs to disclose their donors in regular reports, but social welfare organizations, also known as 501(c)(4) nonprofits, are not required to disclose their donors, according to the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.

These 501(c)(4)s can donate funds to political committees, allowing functionally untraceable money to flow into politics, according to the law firm. Social welfare organizations funded by foreigners can donate to political committees under this arrangement.

Some 501(c)(4) nonprofits also spend directly on politics, as opposed to simply donating to political committees.

Defending Democracy Together (DDT) is one such group, having spent about $2 million on political operations opposing former President Donald Trump and supporting Nikki Haley, who has since dropped out of the Republican presidential primary, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) records.

DDT was co-founded by Bill Kristol, an ex-Republican and vocal Trump critic. The group itself is backed by the Sixteen Thirty Fund, a Democrat-aligned dark money organization.

Americans for Prosperity Action, a Koch-backed political committee, received $25 million in dark money contributions in 2023, making it the top recipient of the cycle, according to OpenSecrets. The organization spent liberally to boost Haley’s campaign, paying out more than $31.2 million to support her failed presidential bid.

Senate Majority PAC took in over $16.7 million, the most dark money of any Democrat-aligned committee, according to OpenSecrets. Senate Majority PAC is a super PAC that was founded in 2011 to help Democrats win Senate seats, according to its website.

Senate Leadership Fund, Senate Majority PAC’s Republican counterpart, only took in about $6.2 million in dark money, according to OpenSecrets.

Committees focused on specific issues also received large quantities of dark money.

LCV Victory Fund, an environmentalist group, took in nearly $13 million, while Everytown for Gun Safety Victory Fund, an anti-gun-rights group, received over $8.5 million in dark money donations, according to OpenSecrets.

Everytown for Gun Safety Victory Fund is financed primarily by former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, according to Influence Watch.

Everytown for Gun Safety Victory Fund, LCV Victory Fund, Senate Leadership Fund, Senate Majority PAC, DDT and Americans for Prosperity Action did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s requests for comment.

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