Archive

ShareThis Page
‘Dark money’ groups make impact with spending on all levels of races in midterm elections | TribLIVE.com
News

‘Dark money’ groups make impact with spending on all levels of races in midterm elections

Tribune-Review
| Sunday, November 30, 2014 12:01 a.m.

WASHINGTON — In June, Scott Renfroe, a Colorado state senator running in a crowded GOP congressional primary, was hit with a slashing attack ad that accused him of supporting “taxpayer-funded bailouts” for a failed local bank.

“Not conservative,” declared the ad run by a nonprofit called Citizens for a Sound Government. The spot hit two weeks before the primary, which Renfroe lost by 20 points.

The innocuous-sounding group was among a wave of organizations funded by secret donors that set a new high-water mark in the 2014 midterms, spending more than $170 million on congressional races, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

And as the Renfroe case suggests, it wasn’t just high-profile, expensive Senate contests: Secret-money groups had a major presence in more than two dozen lesser-known House races as well, according to a Washington Post analysis of campaign finance data compiled by the center.

In 13 House races, non-disclosing groups spent at least $1 million on political ads and voter outreach. In 17 other House campaigns, they made up more than half of the spending by independent groups.

The money spent by so-called “dark money” groups heavily favored Republicans, but a large chunk was spent by liberal groups such as Patriot Majority and VoteVets.org.

The reach of groups financed by unknown donors was much bigger, as the analysis includes only expenditures reported to the Federal Election Commission. Several hundred million dollars was estimated to have been spent by tax-exempt groups on so-called “issue ads,” data gathering and voter outreach that was not disclosed publicly.

Conservatives who defend keeping donors’ names private said the right of anonymous speech is essential, noting that Senate Majority Harry Reid, D-Nev., spent much of this year publicly assailing billionaires Charles and David Koch for their political activities.

“Increasingly, politicians in Washington want to shut down debate and silence those that disagree with them,” said James Davis, a spokesman for Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, a tax-exempt group backed by the Koches and other big donors on the right.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.