Media Blog

MSNBC’s Actual Headline: Dems Learn to Love ‘Dark Money’

How dare the media arm of the Democratic party publish a piece with so many facts!

Zachary Roth writes on MSNBC.com:

Quick! What’s the first thing you think of when you hear about shadowy “dark money” groups trying to sway elections?

We’re guessing conservative powerbrokers like Karl Rove and the Koch Brothers come to mind. And there’s a good reason for that: the right was responsible for the vast majority of dark money spent during last year’s election cycle.

But this time around, things may be different. It’s very early days yet, but liberal dark money groups have outspent conservative ones by well over two to one this year. The about-face suggests that progressives may be accommodating to the political spending free-for-all of the post-Citizens-Unitedera by holding their noses and learning to play the game.

According to new numbers compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, so far in the 2013-2014 cycle, liberal dark money groups—that is, groups that use sections of the tax code that allow them not to disclose their donors—have spent over $1.7 million. That dwarfs the $740,000 spent by conservative groups. Compare that to the 2011-2012 cycle, when five conservative groups—including Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, the Koch Brothers’ Americans for Prosperity, and Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform—accounted for nearly $300 million, or seven out of every ten dark money dollars spent.

In addition to the dark money spending gap, the Democratic House campaign committee and the DNC also have outraised their GOP counterparts lately. That money is less controversial, though, and it’s not unusual in recent cycles for Democrats to have an advantage there.

The potential change in the dark money race could be far more significant. Outside spending favored the right so massively last year that Democrats like Nancy Pelosi talked about long-term plans to amend the Constitution in order to scrap the Citizens United decision. Many progressives viewed doing so as a crucial part of being able to compete with Republicans on a level electoral playing-field over the long term.

Democrats haven’t backed off that stance. And in the fight over campaign finance rules, it’s still Democrats pushing for tighter limits, and Republicans trying to loosen things further. Disclosure rules—that is, when to require groups to reveal their donors—are a current point of contention. That’s even though many Republicans, including Seate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the party’s point-man on the issue, used to support disclosure, when they saw it as a compromise measure to ward off actual spending limits.

But while pushing for stricter rules, Democrats are in the meantime taking a more pragmatic “if-you-can’t beat-‘em-join-‘em” approach.

Perhaps nothing underlines that better than the identity of the candidate who benefited from the single largest chunk of dark money this cycle, according to CRP’s numbers: Democrat Ed Markey, whose successful run for the U.S. Senate in a Massachusetts special election this year got a major boost from $814,000 in dark money spent by the League of Conservation Voters (LCV), an environmental group.

The rest here.

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