This Week in Dark Money

A quick look at the week that was in the world of political dark money

the money shot


quote of the week

“The irony is that the more explicitly the ad pushes one particular candidate, the less disclosure is required.”
Paul Ryan (no relation to the congressman) of the Campaign Legal Center, which helped successfully argue Van Hollen v. FEC. The ruling requires 501(c)(4) groups operating as “social welfare” organizations to disclose the names of donors who contribute money for so-called issue ads. Those ads air within 60 days of a general election and mention candidates without explicitly telling viewers how they should vote. In response, some dark-money groups plan to push the limits of their tax-exempt status even further and dodge Van Hollen with ads urging viewers to vote for or against candidates.


attack ad of the week

The dark-money group Secure America Now has released an ad that hammers President Obama’s foreign policy, juxtaposing footage of 9/11 and other terrorist attacks with a woman firing off a litany of claims, which the Center for Public Integrity fact-checked. Among other things, she says Obama has “all but abandoned Israel,” implies that Iran has a nuclear weapon, and suggests that torture led to the discovery of Osama bin Laden. Watch:


stat of the week

$5.8 billion: The Center for Responsive Politics’ estimate of how much the 2012 elections will cost, a 7 percent jump from 2008. For perspective, that’s how much JP Morgan has said it lost in its much-publicized deal gone bad, and it’s also more than double the entire budget for the National Park Service. The Center estimates that the presidential race alone will cost $2.5 billion, including “wild card” outside spending groups. (The Obama campaign’s fundraising is just shy of the record pace he set in 2008.) In addition to the ramped-up spending by outside groups, congressional candidates and political parties are both expected to outdo their 2008 spending.

race of the week

With the help of super-PACs and dark-money groups, tea party favorite—and conspiracy theorist—Ted Cruz narrowed a 3-to-1 fundraising deficit and defeated Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in a Senate primary runoff election Tuesday in Texas. Dewhurst’s campaign raised $33 million ($25 million of which came from the candidate, a wealthy energy investor) to Cruz’s $10.2 million. But outside groups supporting Cruz outspent those backing Dewhurst by $8 million to $6.5 million. The anti-tax super-PAC Club for Growth Action spent $5.5 million helping Cruz, the most it’s invested in any race so far this year. Here’s one of the group’s spots:


more mojo dark-money coverage

IRS: Toothless. FEC: “Thoroughly Broken”: What little campaign money regulation remains isn’t enforced any more.
Karl Rove’s Catch-22: Crossroads GPS and other nonprofits face new pressure to reveal who bankrolls their ads.
Political Ad Data Comes Online—But It’s Not Searchable.


more must-reads

• Americans for Prosperity, a dark-money group backed by the Koch brothers, says it’s modeling its voter-turnout drive after George Soros’. Bloomberg
• Outside groups are prohibited from coordinating with campaigns, but that didn’t stop Karl Rove from holding an off-the-record fundraising session with a top Romney strategist. CNN
• How many Americans think a super-PAC is a “popular video game for smartphones”? Washington Post


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

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Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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