How They Did It: Uncovering the Top 15 “Dark Money Groups” in US Politics

How They Did It: Uncovering the Top 15 “Dark Money Groups” in US Politics

Patrick Strohecker |
November 28, 2018

In 2010, the political advertising game changed.

That’s when, 5-4, the US Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission that “the free speech clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution prohibits the government from restricting independent expenditures for communications by nonprofit corporations, for-profit corporations, labor unions and other associations.”

With major elections happening every two years between midterm and presidential cycles, US televisions are flooded with campaign ads. And, often times, those ads are attacks on the opposition. And someone is behind those ads and helping to fund them so they get on television. Those groups are called “dark money groups,” and they’re organizations that receive millions of dollars of donations from companies and businesses to fund those ads, exacerbated, in part, by the Citizens United decision.

Non-partisan advocacy organization Issue One spent a year combing through thousands of financial filings over a six-year period to figure out where the money was coming from and who it was going to, ultimately compiling a database that outlined the top 15 “dark money groups” in the country. From there, they released an extremely detailed report on their findings, called “Dark Money Illuminated,” profiling the 15 groups and explaining how they built a database for the general public to access and view.

Storybench spoke to project research manager Michael Beckel to find out how the project originated, how Beckel and his team collected and analyzed all of the data and the importance of highlighting “dark money groups.”

Credit by - GIJN

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