What Is Dark Money?

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/7578235

Author bio: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Alison_M_Gunn,_Ph.D.

Republished with permission from the author

Americans are in the dark when it comes to ‘dark’ money, and our collective confusion—amounting to ignorance—won’t help in the months and years ahead while we watch stakes rise in each new election cycle.

Illumination into the nature of dark money won’t come from analyzing the innocuous (and often misleading) names of the groups formed under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code, the status ascribed to tax-exempt social welfare groups permitting anonymity for donors. The key to this tax-exempt status, however, is that any group claiming its protection must not exist ‘solely for political reasons’ (Opensecrets.org).

Disagreement with ‘dark’ money—also known as ‘outside’ or third-party money—comes from politicians who have felt the sting of attacks from unidentified, ‘obscure’ nonprofits who, currently, do not have to disclose sources of funding, or the amounts they’ve raised.

Positive use of so-called ‘dark’ money occurs when politicians who lack funds receive an influx of cash from outside sources. Political aspirants who can’t afford to counter big money are at a disadvantage; outside, or ‘dark’ money levels the playing field for many potentially worthy candidates whose message might not otherwise be heard. It’s also thought to be a protective measure for those who would otherwise not engage politically, due to the wish to maintain privacy, or protect their reputation from public scrutiny.

Uses and Abuses of Dark Money

Does ‘dark’ money always accomplish its objectives? Apparently not. Montana became the state to watch for trends during the 2012 election season. Sixty-four outside groups poured $21 million into the Montana Senate election, almost as much as the candidates themselves. Party committees spent another $8.9 million on the race. More television commercials ran in the Montana race between June and the election than in any other Senate contest nationwide (Salon.com) saturating the airwaves with someone’s message, but whose?

The incumbent, Democrat Jon Tester, won, in spite of dark money contributions made in the eleventh hour of the race supporting one of his opponents, third-party Libertarian Dan Cox. Support for Cox seems to have skewed the outcome, since Tester’s numbers show his strongest opponent was his Republican counterpart, State Representative Denny Rehberg. Tester recently told the Montana State legislature: “Dark money needs to be reined in at both the federal and state level. Outside groups, on both sides, spent tens of millions of dollars with little transparency and no accountability” (Montana Public Media).

In response, however, Republicans in Montana are now calling to increase spending to fight what some see as the insidious effects of third-party dark money. Stating that the advantage to this proposal comes from insisting on public disclosure, Representative Scott Reichner wants candidates to be able to “compete with anonymous third-party spending” (Billings Gazette). Reichner’s bill goes before the House State Administration Committee, but it already faces severe opposition in a state renowned for its efforts to discourage corruption.

Montana, The New Battleground State For Dark Money Issues

It is poignant that Montana is on the frontline of this controversy, since “The Treasure State,” nicknamed for its rich mineral reserves, has a one hundred year history of fighting political corruption. Montana even went so far as to resist the Supreme Court-sanctioned Citizens United ruling of 2010, having banned all corporate political spending in 1912, after Williams Andrews Clark, one of the Copper Kings who gave the “Treasure State” its nickname, infamously won his election to the U. S. Senate through blatant bribery (Montana Law Review, “Once Upon A Time In The West: Citizens United, Caperton, and the War of the Copper Kings”).

However, the U. S. Supreme Court recently overruled Montana’s strict campaign finance laws, reinforcing the protected role of corporations, further fomenting a divide between those who would like to limit the influence of special interest groups, and those who are willing to spend increasing sums to ensure their message is heard.

Shouldn’t this access be the right of any candidate for office in America? And shouldn’t the individual be free to make up his or her own mind which candidate they will support financially? In the controversial Citizens United decision, the U. S. Supreme Court made it clear that ‘experimental uses’ of free speech inspired by the First Amendment had moral supremacy over concerns that corporate political speech might be misused or even lead to corruption. As Justice Kennedy said in his Citizens United ‘Opinion,’ “The Government may regulate corporate political speech through disclaimer and disclosure requirements, but it may not suppress that speech altogether.”

What’s Hiding Behind Dark Money

In spite of the overarching moral supremacy of the First Amendment, what’s at issue for the voter when it comes to the uses of ‘dark money’ is the definition of ‘independent expenditure,’ and whether or not an ‘independent expenditure’ is as corrupting as a ‘direct contribution’. Further, the sole dissenter to the Supreme Court’s decision overruling Montana’s campaign finance law, Judge Stephen Breyer, stated in response to the controversial decision, that independent expenditures have the potential to be as corrupting as direct contributions.

The distinction between ‘direct contribution’ and ‘independent expenditure’ and what makes one more potentially ‘corrupting’ has roots in attempts to prevent unbridled excess in political expenditure. “Before the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA), federal law prohibited—and still does prohibit—corporations and unions from using general treasury funds to make direct contributions to candidates or independent expenditures that expressly advocate the election or defeat of a candidate, through any form of media, in connection with certain qualified federal elections” (Justice Kennedy: ‘Opinion’, Citizens United, Appellant v. Federal Election Commission, Jan. 21, 2010).

The loser in the race to Election Day will be the voter. If the 2012 Montana Senate race is any indication, candidates will be forced to raise money earlier and earlier, if they are to have a chance against outside groups. Bombarding voters with advertising, disingenuous tactics and mailings from groups hiding behind protected ‘social welfare’ status will only serve to further erode faith in the democratic process. Laws designed to promote secrecy do a disservice to democracy, at the same time they protect special interest groups. Timely and adequate disclosure is essential if voters are to make informed decisions and remain civically engaged.

Remaining unaware of dark money, its uses and purposes, is not the answer. Demand to know who and what you’re buying into when you vote for something or someone, because it is currently in the interests of political action groups to keep you in the dark. Voters and voting will lose out, as will American democracy. This should matter to you, since it’s dangerous to be apathetic.

Seattle May Day Mayhem – Pepper Spray and Flash Grenades

Videos @ Youtube – Free Speech Radio News Reports:
(Including voice of ABC News reporter Hanna Scott on being pepper sprayed.)

Originally Published Wed May 01, 2013 at 10:19 PM PDT
@ Daily Kos

Seattle May Day Mayhem – Pepper Spray and Flash Grenades

by Mark Taylor-Canfield

Thousands of people marched in Seattle on May Day.

Labor unions brought large numbers out to an immigrants rights march organized by the group El Comite.

Although the main march was peaceful, a group of 100 to 200 protesters fought a moving battle with police starting downtown near Westlake Park and ending on Capitol Hill.

SPD officers used large amounts of pepper spray and flash/bang grenades.

A Walgreens on Capitol Hill had a broken window. Other property damage and broken windows were reported.

13 arrests for property damage and assault. 2 juveniles arrested.

Police report bottles, rocks, and metal pipes were thrown at them.

KIRO TV news reports that their reporters were attacked by protesters, and several suffered from the effects of the pepper spray.

These incidents are sure to continue the ongoing controversy over police crowd control policies and anarchist tactics. Last year’s events resulted in a federal grand jury, the jailing of four activists (in solitary confinement), an independent review of SPD actions, an internal investigation and the resignation of SPD chief John Diaz.

(Update: SPD reports 18 arrests.)


Independent Report on May Day Critical of Seattle Police

Youtube video of news report here:
MTC FSRN Report_0001

Originally broadcast April 4, 2013 @ Free Speech Radio News on the Pacifica Network.
FSRN broadcasts on 110 stations globally!

Link to news report @ FSRN:
News Report For Free Speech Radio News on the Pacifica Network fsrn.org pacifica.org

Reporter: Mark Taylor-Canfield

“Seattle’s city council questioned the police chief on Wednesday, about his handling of last year’s May Day protests, in which eight people were arrested. An independent review of the protests found that the Seattle Police Department failed to practice adequate crowd control and officers were confused by conflicting orders. FSRN’S Mark Taylor-Canfield has more.”

“Authored by former Los Angeles Police Deputy Chief Michael Hillmann, the review focuses on the policing of a small independent march. On May Day 2012 demonstrators broke off from the main march and damaged property in downtown Seattle. Officers reported that they were given conflicting orders on how to engage protesters and make arrests. Hillman claims that police activity on May Day ‘significantly damaged the credibility of the Police Department’. In particular Hillman found that fellow officers criticized Assistant Police Chief Mike Sanford’s decision to enter a crowd of protesters alone to make an arrest. They told how Sanford then had to be rescued by other police officers.”

“The review also points out that Seattle Police officers have not received any new training on crowd control since demonstrations against the World Trade Organization took place in Seattle in 1999. The department’s handling of those protests was also widely criticized. At the time of the May Day protest the Seattle Police Department was under a US Dept of Justice investigation for use of excessive force. A federal grand jury is also currently investigating the protests.”

“Mark Taylor-Canfield, FSRN, Seattle.”

Paul Cienfuegos on Community Rights Ordinances

Five minutes and 20 seconds. Grab a cup of coffee and give Paul a listen.

Paul and I agree on a lot of things, but we both start from the point that single issue activism is not going to get the work done.

Paul is a Evergreen State College (TESC) alum, here is Paul’s website. He has done trainings in Olympia and Shelton on community rights and helped Salish Sea activists shut down the biomass projects a couple of years ago.

Pinata Economics

I have been thinking about Romney and the general casino-style financial sector that has been preying on the US and the world over the past decade and the image of a pinata came to mind. Pinata economics. The willingness, the glee of smashing something pretty to get at the goodies inside really seems to fit with the get really rich really quick schemes of leveraged buyouts.

In These Times has a couple of good articles in the September 2012 issue. One is The Bain Legacy and the other How to Succeed in Business Without Adding Value. Both by David Moberg. I recommend reading them both.

Courtesy Paul Sapiano and Wiki Commons



Courtesy Gage Skidmore Wiki Commons





Pinata Economics. I claim intellectual property rights to that term and now I sell it to the highest bidder. Isn’t that the way these things work?

Wish I knew how to put the ~ symbol on top of the N.

Lo siento mucho, hermanos y hermanas.

Austin's Picks: Is Class Struggle Anarchism

Austin K sent this link along in an email this morning. It’s a couple of years old, but it’s still worth sharing and reading. The links go to interesting websites if you have an open mind about politics, which is to say, that you can imagine political positions that are broader than the republican and democratic party talking points. I am only posting two of the points that Nate pulls from Tom’s article. If you want to see the third point, you are going to have click on the link.  Fair use can look tyrannical.

Nate uses his What in the Hell …? website the way I use smallblueplanet.org, as a staging area to gather ideas, to store links and info, then to compose from that website for publication elsewhere. For me, that makes Nate’s What in the Hell… ? particularly interesting.

What in the Hell is Class Struggle Anarchism?

July 24, 2009

Austust another WordPress.com siteIt’s

Hat tip to Tom Wetzel for this fine article. Check it out. Full disclosure and a little bragging, I know Tom, we’re both involved in the Workers Solidarity Alliance, so I’m biased. Anyhow, read his piece.

My favorite three bits are quoted below. With these bits I was reading it and I was like “yeah, this is what I try to do in this kind
of work but I haven’t put it this clearly before,” which is a cool feeling, like the article put clearly into words what had been more of a gut feeling for me or stuff I’d fumbled and put badly before.

1. “Dual organizational anarchists often say that the role of the anarchist political organization is to “win the battle of ideas,” that
is, to gain influence within movements and among the mass of the population by countering authoritarian or liberal or conservative ideas. Bakunin had said that the role of anarchist activists was a “leadership of ideas.”

But disseminating ideas isn’t the only form of influence. Working with others of diverse views in mass organizations and struggles, exhibiting a genuine commitment, and being a personable and supportive person in this context also builds personal connections, and makes it more likely one’s ideas will be taken seriously.”

2. “mass struggles and mass organizing as the process for changing society…because it is through the active participation of growing numbers of ordinary people, building and controlling their own movements, that they develop the capacity and aspirations for changing society.

From the point of view of “organized anarchism with a class struggle perspective,” two kinds of organization are needed: (1) forms of mass organization through which ordinary people can grow and develop their collective strength, and (2) political organizations of the anarchist or libertarian socialist minority, to have a more effective means to coordinate our activities, gain influence in working class communities, and disseminate our ideas. In the World War 1 era Italian anarchists coined the term “dual organization” for this perspective.

Read the whole piece if you have a couple of minutes.

Austin's Picks: Autonomy Alliance

“It’s a scary time to be involved with radical class struggle. But was it ever any other way?”

Austin Kelly suggests you scan this one from LibCom.org:



Autonomy Alliance: The interview



An interview conducted with two members of St Louis libertarian group, Autonomy Alliance.

While in St. Louis, I was lucky enough to stay with two members of the Autonomy Alliance. In that time, I’ve been impressed with the level activity I’ve seen from the group—regular publications, public events (not the least of which included a screening of the 1971 film Sacco and Vanzetti), and running a once-yearly weekend school.

Unlike many of the city-based libertarian groups in the US, I hadn’t heard of them before. So I thought it’d be worth learning a bit more about them. The following interview took place with those same two members, although it’s in personal capacity, so should not be taken as the official AA positions.

Tell me a bit about the group. When were you founded? How many people are currently active? Are members active in any other organizations? What are the particular politics of your group and what level of political agreement do you strive for? What are the activities and projects you’re involved in?

Autonomy Alliance has been active for about 5 years, although it’s current core group has only been active since late 2008. There are about 10 members who attend regular meetings, vote on event proposals, and facilitate annual events. Our members are all involved with other local and national anti-capitalist organizations. AA is made up of PARECONists, social anarchists, radical feminists, and Wobblies. The goal has always been to bring together folks of different radical left-wing backgrounds into a cohesive organization to work on local projects, distribute literature, discuss readings and put out a quarterly newsletter.

One aspect of AA that differs from many radical groups is that we have defined membership, a democratic voting procedure, and agreed upon organizational by-laws which we collectively edit every year or so. While AA is still small in numbers, I think we’re able to focus our time and energy into local projects in a way that’s relatively efficient. I think we all want to avoid the pitfalls that come along with doing things in a disjointed and loosely organized way. We co-sponsor an annual event called Left Wing School, a day long series of workshops and panel discussions on a wide ranging number of subjects, from labor, environmentalism, feminism, Palestine solidarity, etc. The LWS has occurred every December for the past several years. In the past, we’ve also co-sponsored several commemorations of the 1877 General Strike. In 2010, we brought in famous labor historian, Jeremy Brecher, along with popular singer-songwriter David Rovics to participate in this event. It was attended by about 100 people.

Read the whole thing? or turn on Good Morning, America? You make the call.