“Dark money” is money spent by groups outside campaigns and political parties that do not have to disclose their donors — either because they are organized as “social welfare” organizations under section 501(c)4 of the federal tax code, or as 501(c)3 charities receiving contributions from donor-advised funds that allow many donors to remain anonymous.
Democrats have claimed for years that Republicans are the primary beneficiaries of “dark money,” ever since the Supreme Court decided in the Citizens United case in 2011 that the Federal Elections Commission could not censor an anti-Hillary Clinton film before an election because people organized as corporations, no less than individuals, have free speech rights.
Clinton and almost every Democrat since has run on a pledge to revise the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to limit the ability of corporations to spend on elections. Meanwhile, however, they have built a dominant “dark money” machine.
The Times‘ Kenneth P. Vogel and Shane Goldmacher note that Democrats even funded “Republican” anti-Trump groups:
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The analysis shows that 15 of the most politically active nonprofit organizations that generally align with the Democratic Party spent more than $1.5 billion in 2020 — compared to roughly $900 million spent by a comparable sample of 15 of the most politically active groups aligned with the G.O.P.
A single, cryptically named entity that has served as a clearinghouse of undisclosed cash for the left, the Sixteen Thirty Fund, received mystery donations as large as $50 million and disseminated grants to more than 200 groups, while spending a total of $410 million in 2020 — more than the Democratic National Committee itself.
The big-money right was fractured over whether to support Mr. Trump’s re-election. Anti-Trump Republicans started new groups that were welcomed into the left’s big-money firmament: Defending Democracy Together, co-founded in 2018 by the conservative pundit William Kristol, spent nearly $40 million in 2020 — $10.5 million of it from the Sixteen Thirty Fund. And Mr. Trump’s baseless claims about voter fraud hamstrung Republican efforts to compete with progressive groups that spent heavily to promote early and mail voting.
On the left, the prospect of a second Trump term spurred a new class of megadonors, and helped allay lingering qualms about the corrosive effect of secret money among some Democrats.
Republicans are attempting to catch up, organizing their own “dark money” efforts to oppose President Joe Biden and his policies. However, they have much catching up to do. Biden, who struggled early in the race, raised over $1 billion directly in 2020, versus $800 million for President Donald Trump, who was outspent though he had the advantage of incumbency.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.