Dark Money

Written by Robyn Wright ’13

“Dark money.” It sounds like a phrase you would first hear out of the Star Wars Trilogy, but in reality it’s what’s helping finance this election.

Illustration: Campaign cash

Dark money is the technique by which wealthy campaign donors can contribute anonymously without being subjected to government restrictions.

These “social welfare” groups are allowed to spend half their money on election advocacy, but the half they do not spend they are allowed to donate to “super PACs” [political action committees].

These super PACs can influence an election through advertisement as long as they are not working in cooperation with the candidate. Donations to these super PACs are regulated, but the dark money donations have less clear reporting requirements.

Currently, there is a call for transparency in knowing who is funding campaigns, but this isn’t our greatest concern. The Supreme Court case of Citizens United versus the Federal Election Commission ruled that campaign spending by corporations and unions could not be prohibited as it was protected by the First Amendment. The Supreme Court ruled that money was equal to free speech.

Donating to a campaign is certainly an expression of one’s free speech, but what about when one wealthy individual is able to donate a million dollars while another can only give a measly $10? Now the first individual has 100,000 times more freedom of speech [$1 million = $10 x 100,000] in regards to this election.

Our Declaration of Independence claims that “all men are created equal,” but we are allowing money to destroy this equality.

Each year, more and more money is being spent to finance elections, and if we are to reclaim our voice, we must put a cap on this excessive spending. As a nation, we must demand Washington pass full disclosure laws on dark money, and enforce stricter rules on coordination within campaigns.

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