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Anonymous Donors Fueling Independent Campaign Spending

May 25, 2012
When the Supreme Court issued its Citizens United ruling, it said that transparency and disclosure of campaign expenditures would be weapons against the corrupting influence of money. Our colleague John Aloysius Farrell reports (for members) on the state of transparency in the post-Citizens United world:

How's that working out in 2012? Not so well, it appears. The lion's share of advertising for the fall election--some 90 percent of all the ads being run, independent of the two political parties, according to a Washington Post survey--has been paid for by partisan operations that cloak their donors. In part due to shambolic performances by Congress, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Federal Election Commission, the "moneyed interests" are defying attempts to hold them accountable. ...

To maintain anonymity, big donors can fund "independent expenditures" (another legal term of art) by groups operating under section 501(c) of the tax code. Although such front groups face limits on what portion of their budget can be spent on candidates, they operate with a high degree of confidence that the IRS won't shut them down. ...

Some of the biggest 501(c) groups are affiliated with super PACs, to whom they transfer gobs of money, effectively laundering campaign cash. ...

The super PACs received all the attention in the GOP presidential primaries, but 501(c) groups are replacing them as the vehicle of choice for big "moneyed interests" in the general election.

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