A couple of former congressmen have written a widely-circulated guest commentary that warns of the continued infusion of so-called dark money into American political campaigns.
The first time we heard the phrase “dark money” as it relates to politics was during the 2010 mid-term election cycle. Two years ago, presidential candidate Donald Trump referred to Congress as “being under the magical spell of donors …” Presumably, anonymous donors were included.
Dark money refers to money given to various, registered nonprofit organizations that can legally receive unlimited donations from corporations, individuals and unions, and those organizations use the money to influence the outcome of elections.
The problem — and the reason behind the dark-money designation — is that the nonprofit outfits spending on campaigns are not required to disclose who or what donated the money.
The result is that dark money contributions have exploded in recent years. In the 2006 federal election cycle, an estimated $5.2 million in undisclosed funding was pumped out to candidates and PACs. By the 2016 presidential campaign, the dark-money total had soared beyond $1.4 billion.
In other words, it is apparent that dark money is driving the American political process, and the donors are hiding behind a veil of secrecy. Offshore or onshore donors, it doesn’t really matter. If the money is being donated anonymously, Americans remain in the dark about who or what is paying to get our representatives elected, and special ballot initiatives approved.
Some important people are trying their best to change that. Sen. John McCain, who is fighting terminal brain cancer, has penned a memoir in which he warns about dark money and its role in the corruption of U.S. political campaigns, primarily because such a high percentage of the dark money comes from a handful of billionaires who are not necessarily U.S. citizens.
That implies to us that a very small group of wealthy donors are deciding who rules in America — which makes a mockery of a political process that made America great.
McCain warns in his book this is a problem Congress can, and should solve, correcting the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling that lit the fuse on the dark-money explosion.
The success of domestic dark-money expeditions seems to have emboldened foreign governments to get involved. Recent revelations about Russia’s advertising-driven influence on the 2016 presidential election sounded the alarm for members of Congress — or at least it should have.
And maybe it did. More than a dozen members of the House and Senate from both major parties have created the Congressional Reformers Caucus, the sole purpose of which is to address the influence of dark money on U.S. politics, then figure out how to plug the leak.
There is also a bipartisan move afoot to rework the Federal Election Commission, and a push to create legislation to require honesty in political advertising.
That may sound like a plot-line for a Saturday Night Live skit, but it’s not. Important people are beginning to speak out against the realities of deep-pocket donors hiding behind federal laws, and how such activities warp America’s political landscape.
Of particular concern are the obvious attempts by other nations to attack America’s long history of meaningful political discourse, by interjecting a web of lies and misrepresentations that seem to have confused so many voters in recent elections.
Every president strives to create a lasting legacy. If President Trump wants to join that group, he will help Congress take a stand against the dark-money assault that threatens this republic.