Democrats Decried Dark Money in Politics, but Used It to Defeat Trump | Digital Marketing Technology| Digital Marketing Trends

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A New York Times analysis reveals how the left outdid the right at raising and spending millions from undisclosed donors to defeat Donald Trump and win power in Washington.

  
  
   Credit... Mark Harris

Kenneth P. Vogel Shane Goldmacher

By Kenneth P. Vogel and Shane Goldmacher

Ken Vogel’s reporting from Washington focuses on the intersection of money, politics and influence. Shane Goldmacher is a national politics reporter specializing in campaign finance.

Jan. 29, 2022

For much of the last decade, Democrats complained — with a mix of indignation, frustration and envy — that Republicans and their allies were spending hundreds of millions of difficult-to-trace dollars to influence politics.

“Dark money” became a dirty word, as the left warned of the threat of corruption posed by corporations and billionaires that were spending unlimited sums through loosely regulated nonprofits, which did not disclose their donors’ identities.

Major nonprofit groups aligned with the Democratic Party

Organization

Organization

Spending in 2020

Spending in 2020

Total Total $1,725,759,799 $1,725,759,799 Adjusted total* Adjusted total* $1,513,291,420 $1,513,291,420 Sixteen Thirty Fund Sixteen Thirty Fund $410,038,247 $410,038,247 America Votes America Votes $250,000,000 $250,000,000 Majority Forward Majority Forward $185,000,000 $185,000,000 Future Forward USA Action Future Forward USA Action $149,377,966 $149,377,966 Hopewell Fund Hopewell Fund $127,636,237 $127,636,237

Major nonprofit groups aligned with the Republican Party

Organization

Organization

Spending in 2020

Spending in 2020

Total Total $972,501,426 $972,501,426 Adjusted total* Adjusted total* $904,202,426 $904,202,426 One Nation One Nation $195,992,551 $195,992,551 Stand Together Chamber of Commerce Inc. Stand Together Chamber of Commerce Inc. $170,671,786 $170,671,786 U.S. Chamber of Commerce U.S. Chamber of Commerce $169,020,709 $169,020,709 Americans for Prosperity Americans for Prosperity $78,329,056 $78,329,056 America First Policies Inc. America First Policies Inc. $66,234,305 $66,234,305

How The Times Investigated Dark Money

The New York Times’s analysis of dark money in 2020 relies primarily on spending figures disclosed by nonprofit groups in their annual I.R.S. tax filings. The Times reviewed the filings of more than 150 nonprofits to select 15 of the most active politically oriented organizations that generally aligned with each party.

Several of the nonprofit groups included in the analysis file their returns on schedules that do not align with the calendar year. In some cases, those groups voluntarily provided total spending figures for the 2020 calendar year, which were used in the analysis. In other cases, the analysis used figures from the tax returns that covered part of 2019 and part of 2020.

The analysis includes groups registered as chambers of commerce, social welfare groups and charities, registered under sections 501(c)(6), 501(c)(4) and 501(c)(3) of the tax code, respectively.

It does not include think tanks, which can play an outsize role in shaping political debates; donor-advised funds, which funnel hundreds of millions of dollars from major donors into causes that are both political and apolitical; or labor unions, some of which spend heavily on politics, but which are funded mostly by smaller dues payments from individual members.

Grants and transfers made between the groups in the analysis were omitted from the overall spending tallies, but were included in the totals of individual groups.