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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Dark Money Update

In Defying the Odds, we discuss campaign finance and campaign technologyThe 2019 update includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.

Toby Eckert at Politico:
The Treasury Department and IRS on Tuesday finalized regulations that will excuse some politically active tax-exempt groups from having to disclose their high-dollar donors to the IRS.
The rules, which have been in the works for several years, will affect groups organized under 501(c)(4) of the tax code, which include political heavy-hitters like the National Rifle Association and AARP; labor unions; and “dark money” groups that fly under the radar.
Those organizations have no legal obligation to publicly disclose their donors' identities, but they previously had to give the IRS the names and addresses of donors who gave them more than $5,000. Under the new regulations, the groups won’t have to provide the information to the IRS at all.

Supporters of the move say the IRS doesn’t need the information and that requiring it posed privacy risks, even though the agency kept the information confidential. But opponents say it will make political activity by tax-exempt groups even more opaque and open the door to donations from foreigners.
 Anna Massoglia and Sam Levine at Open Secrets:
A powerful new conservative organization fighting to restrict voting in the 2020 presidential election is really just a rebranded group that is part of a dark money network already helping President Donald Trump’s unprecedented effort to remake the federal judiciary, the Guardian and OpenSecrets reveal.
The organization, which calls itself the Honest Elections Project, seemed to emerge out of nowhere a few months ago and started stoking fears about voter fraud. Backed by a dark money group funded by right-wing stalwarts like the Koch brothers and Betsy DeVos’ family, the Honest Elections Project is part of the network that pushed Supreme Court picks Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsurch, and is quickly becoming a juggernaut in the escalating fight over voting rights.

The project announced it was spending $250,000 on advertisements in April, warning against voting by mail and accusing Democrats of cheating. It facilitated letters to election officials in Colorado, Florida, and Michigan, using misleading data to accuse jurisdictions of having bloated voter rolls and threatening legal action.

Calling voter suppression a “myth,” it has also been extremely active in the courts, filing briefs in favor of voting restrictions in Nevada, Virginia, Texas, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, among other places, at times represented by lawyers from the same firm that represents Trump. By having a hand in both voting litigation and the judges on the federal bench, this network could create a system where conservative donors have an avenue to both oppose voting rights and appoint judges to back that effort.
Despite appearing to be a free-standing new operation, the Honest Elections Project is just a legal alias for the Judicial Education Project, a well-financed nonprofit connected to a powerful network of dark money conservative groups, according to business records reviewed by the Guardian and OpenSecrets.