Liberals outpaced conservatives in dark money spending during midterms

During the 2018 midterm elections, liberal groups outpaced their conservative counterparts in dark money spending on political ads for the first time since 2010, even as Democratic candidates decried the presence of corporate PAC money.

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According to a new report released by Issue One, a nonpartisan group that aims to reduce the influence of money in politics, dark money groups in total spent a whopping $150 billion during the previous election cycle, with liberal dark money groups accounting for about 54 percent of that. Conservative groups, meanwhile, constituted around 31 percent of it, while nonpartisan groups made up the remaining 15 percent.

One group in particular -- Majority Forward -- spent $46 billion on ads, nearly one-third of the total dark money spent last year. The pac, which was the biggest nonprofit spender during the midterms, was active in 10 competitive Senate races.

Although it does not disclose its funders, some of its donors include nonprofits like Environmental Defense Action Fund, companies like CVS Health Corp. and political committees that include the Intercontinental Exchange, parent company of the New York Stock Exchange.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Majority Forward, which was formed in 2015, is headed by J.B. Poersch, a Democratic operative with close ties to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

“Dark money is the most toxic force in politics,” said Issue One CEO Nick Penniman in a statement. “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.”

Historically, conservatives have dominated the dark money game, previously outspending liberal organizations by a nearly 4-to-1 ratio, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Following the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010, conservative spending outpaced that of liberals by almost 11-to-1.

And as the Journal noted, Majority Forward, the League of Conservation Voters, Patriot Majority USA and VoteVets Action Fund are the only Democratic-leaning groups to be featured on Issue One’s list of the top 15 politically active nonprofits.

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"Secret spending in elections has the potential to denigrate every candidate in every election, and candidates are losing complete control of the messages in their campaigns to these outside groups,” Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., said in a statement. “Now is the time for Republicans and Democrats to work together to ensure that campaigns are not fought in the shadows.”