Left-leaning groups spent more dark money on the 2018 midterm elections than right-leaning groups, according to an Issue One report released Jan. 23. The spending pattern is a shift from previous years when right-leaning groups spent significantly more.
Dark money groups, which are politically active nonprofits, spent some $150 million during the 2018 election cycle. Left-leaning groups accounted for about 54 percent of that, according to the nonprofit, which advocates for, among other things, reducing “the influence of big money on politics.”
Nearly a third ($46 million) of all dark money was spent by Majority Forward, a left-leaning non-profit founded by former senior campaign staff of former President Barack Obama.
Right-leaning groups spent some 31 percent of the total, while groups classified as “bipartisan” or “nonpartisan” spent about 15 percent.
“All Americans have a right to know who is trying to influence their votes,” Issue One Executive Director Meredith McGehee said in a release. “This principle has been upheld repeatedly by the Supreme Court and is at the heart of our system, which depends on transparency for accountability. Now is the time for Democrats and Republicans to work together to address the out-of-control dark money in politics.”
Dark money refers to spending by nonprofits that engage in political advocacy but don’t have to disclose their donors. Such nonprofits aren’t allowed to openly advocate for or against candidates, but can advocate on political issues in a way that’s advantageous or disadvantageous to a candidate. They’re only allowed to spend a minority of their funding on political issues.
“As we head into the 2020 presidential election, both parties must reject the opaque ways some of their wealthiest donors are influencing elections,” said Issue One CEO Nick Penniman. “Dark money is the most toxic force in politics. Members of Congress are the ones being mugged in the dark alleys. Regardless of their party affiliation, they should have a strong personal incentive to get rid of dark money.”