What is dark money? Joe Biden got $145M from unknown source and 60 WH staffers are linked to such a donor group

What is dark money? Joe Biden got $145M from unknown source and 60 WH staffers are linked to such a donor group
President Joe Biden has got huge donations from anonymous donors (Getty Images)

At least 60 people in President Joe Biden’s White House have links to a liberal Washington DC think tank that does not disclose its funding and it has resulted in questions being asked about progressive ‘dark money’. Daily Mail said in a report that the think tank, Center for American Progress, is one of the various lobbying groups and policy bodies that do not disclose the source of their fundings. The center was founded in 2003 by John Podesta, who worked closely with two former Democratic presidents — Bill Clinton (White House chief of staff) and Barack Obama (counselor to the president). Biden’s chief of staff, Ron Klain, was on board the Center for American Progress Action Fund, the organization’s advocacy arm, between 2011 and 2013.

In January, days after Biden took oath as the 46th president, BloombergQuint reported that the commander-in-chief gained from record-breaking donations that anonymous donors gave to outside groups supporting him and that the people will never know who actually helped him to win the White House last November. The question about Biden benefiting from “dark money donations” was also raised.


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Biden’s dark money donations dwarfed Trump’s poll expenses

“Biden’s winning campaign was backed by $145 million in so-called dark money donations, a type of fundraising Democrats have decried for years. Those fundraising streams augmented Biden’s $1.5 billion haul, in itself a record for a challenger to an incumbent president. That amount of dark money dwarfs the $28.4 million spent on behalf of his rival, former President Donald Trump. And it tops the previous record of $113 million in anonymous donations backing Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in 2012,” the report said in a bombshell revelation.

The BloombergQuint report said while Democrats have sought a ban on dark money as a source of corruption, since it allows supporters to back a candidate quietly without scrutiny, they agreed to take it to defeat former President Donald Trump. The report cited Priorities USA Action Fund, a super political action committee (PAC) that Biden picked as his preferred medium for outside spending, used $26 million that were originally donated to its non-profit arm named Priorities USA to support Biden. The donors of that money can skip identification.

Former President Donald Trump (Getty Images)

Priorities USA Chairman Guy Cecil was unapologetic about it. He said in a statement: “We weren’t going to unilaterally disarm against Trump and the right- wing forces that enabled him.” Campaign finance laws are supposed to limit the influence of big money on politicians. But the system has been flouted, thanks to gaping loopholes. 

Days after the presidential and other general elections were held last November, CNN cited analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics that Biden’s presidential bid received the backing of anonymous money worth almost $132 million, compared to only $22 million to aid Trump. According to the center, dark money includes donations and spending by nonprofits that do not disclose the source of the funding and also includes the money that flows into politics from limited liability corporations that operate as shell firms.

The center also said in the analysis that after years of dark money boosting Republicans overwhelmingly, it has been seen for the first time that the dark money helped Democrats in a presidential election. The trend was also seen during the 2018 midterm elections in which the Democrats did well.

The CNN report also said that the two crucial Senate run-off elections in early January saw big spending by candidates, political parties and outside groups, including those backed by nonprofits hiding their donors. The elections were too crucial for both the big parties as whoever won them would go on to control the chamber and eventually it was the Democrats who made it.

What is dark money?

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, ‘dark money’ is the money which is spent to influence political outcomes and the source of the money is not revealed.  When groups do not reveal the source of the funding, they are called ‘dark money groups’.

Dark money generally moves through politically active nonprofits like 501(c)(4)s that are under no legal obligation to reveal their donors despite spending to influence elections. Besides, opaque nonprofits and shell firms may also give unlimited money to super PACs. While super PACs are legally bound to reveal their donors, some of them are, according to the center, “effectively dark money outlets when the bulk of their funding cannot be traced back to the original donor”.

“Dark money groups have spent roughly $1 billion — mainly on television and online ads and mailers — to influence elections in the decade since the 2010 Citizens United v. FEC Supreme Court ruling that gave rise to politically active nonprofits. Citizens who are barraged with political messages paid for with money from undisclosed sources may not be able to consider the credibility and possible motives of the wealthy corporate or individual funders behind those messages,” the center said.

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