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 billionaire donors I hear are livid. There is some holy hell to pay.”
—A Republican operative speaking to the Huffington Post about Karl Rove, who “has a lot of explaining to do.” Rove’s super-PAC American Crossroads and dark-money group Crossroads GPS spent at least $175 million, but just nine of the 30 candidates that Crossroads supported won. Rove, who claimed that Obama won reelection “by supressing the vote” and with the help of Hurricane Sandy, reportedly held a phone briefing with top donors on Thursday to explain Crossroads’ lack of success.


chart of the week

Rove wasn’t the only operative with a lot of explaining to do. Other conservative super-PACs and dark-money groups that spent a lot did not see great results at the ballot box. Meanwhile, some smaller liberal and labor groups saw respectable returns on their investments.


stat of the week

More than $57 million: The amount of disclosed donations from casino magnate and Gingrich-Romney supporter Sheldon Adelson and his wife Miriam. The Adelsons’ money got more mileage than Rove’s, but about 58 percent of the candidates it supported still lost. Asked by a Norwegian journalist how he thought his money had been spent, Adelson replied, “Paying bills. That’s how you spend money. Either that or become a Jewish husband—you spend a lot of money.”


attack ad of the week

Conservative super-PACs had the clear money advantage throughout the 2012 election, but in the end it was an ad from the pro-Obama super-PAC Priorities USA Action that became the most effective campaign spot, according to TV analytics company Ace Metrix. The ad, “Stage,” was part of a nine-spot, $50 million buy in contested states hitting Romney’s record at Bain Capital. During the campaign, Republican pollster Frank Luntz told the Huffington Post‘s Howard Fineman that “that ad alone has killed Mitt Romney in Ohio.”


more mojo dark-money coverage

Will Republican Mega-Donors Say Sayonara to Super-PACs? Liberal bankrollers soured on partisan politics after the 2004 elections. Will Adelson and co. follow suit after 2012?
Sen. Sherrod Brown Fights Off the Dark-Money Machine to Win in Ohio: Brown’s win puts Democrats that much closer to keeping their slim Senate majority.
Sheldon Adelson Is Partying With Mitt Romney on Election Night: It’s the least Adelson could expect for his $53 million in pro-GOP donations this election cycle.
9 Incredible Campaign Money Stats: Some quick Election Day stats on Super-PACs, dark money, and…Justin Bieber?!
California’s Biggest “Campaign Money Laundering” Scheme, Revealed—Kinda: A bitter fight in California to unmask a secretive donor ends with more questions than answers.
Charts: How Much Have the Kochs Spent to Sway the Vote?: See how much the billionaire brothers have spent in your state—and why the size of their campaign to beat Obama is a mystery.
A Dark Money Group’s Sketchy Origins Emerge: More details trickle out about the big donors behind a Montana-based nonprofit that’s fighting election spending limits.


more must-reads

• Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock, who unsuccessfully challenged the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, was elected governor despite a last-minute outside-money assault. Center for Public Integrity
• The US Chamber of Commerce was another major outside-spending loser this election. Washington Post
• And Sheldon Adelson wasn’t the only megadonor to back a score of losing candidates. Center for Public Integrity
• Even the anti-incumbent super-PAC Campaign for Primary Accountability had better luck than Karl Rove on Tuesday. Slate

More Mother Jones reporting on Dark Money


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.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend