Our new book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics. Among other things, it discusses campaign finance.
Scott Bland at Politico:
A left-leaning, secret-money group doled out a whopping $410 million in 2020, aiding Democratic efforts to unseat then-President Donald Trump and win back control of the Senate.
The group, the Sixteen Thirty Fund, financed attack ads against Trump and vulnerable Republican senators and funded massive get-out-the-vote and issue advocacy campaigns amid the coronavirus pandemic, as detailed in a new tax filing obtained by POLITICO. It exploded in size during the Trump administration, going from a few tens of millions of dollars per year to raising and spending hundreds of millions.
The Sixteen Thirty Fund’s multi-million dollar grants singlehandedly powered some other organizations on the left, and it also incubated other groups, as a “fiscal sponsor,” that fought against Trump’s Supreme Court nominees, backed liberal ballot measures and policy proposals in different states and organized opposition to Republican tax and health care policies.
Its massive 2020 fundraising and spending illustrates the extent to which the left embraced the use of “dark money” to fight for its causes in recent years. After decrying big-money Republican donors over the last decade, as well as the Supreme Court rulings that flooded politics with more cash, Democrats now benefit from hundreds of millions of dollars of undisclosed donations as well.
The DISCLOSE Act is now included in H.R. 1, the For the People Act, the Democratic Party’s comprehensive ethics, voting rights, and campaign finance package, which also stands little chance of passage without scrapping the filibuster. But today, Democrats find themselves in a more delicate spot, both backing federal legislation that would restrict the flow of undisclosed spending, while also becoming increasingly dependent on it and the donors who demand it.
To manage this tension, Democratic campaign officials, consultants, and donor groups consistently rely on a go-to phrase: unilateral disarmament. They claim to agree that money in politics can be detrimental to democracy, but they cannot afford to let all the benefits of super PAC spending flow to Republicans. They have to play the game as it’s played, distasteful though it may be.
But more quietly, leaders in the progressive fundraising world will admit that transparency is just not a serious priority anymore. With imminent threats to democracy, including Republicans clinging to false theories about a stolen 2020 election and the possibility that election officials will simply reject the will of the voters in the future, liberal donors say there are just higher-order matters to focus on. “They’re understandably scared shitless about Trump getting another term, and [they] act accordingly,” said Gara LaMarche, the former president of the Democracy Alliance, a network of progressive mega-donors.