Democrats this election have done a good job attracting a lot of big on the record public donors, but Republicans appear to have the big advantage when it comes to big secret donors.
The 15 top Democrat-aligned committees that disclose their donors have outraised the 15 top Republican ones $453 million to $289 million in the 2014 cycle, according to a POLITICO analysis of the most recent FEC reports, including those filed this month.
Democrats and liberals have focused on SuperPACs that disclose the name of every donor who gives more than $200. Why? In large part this is because that is the way the donors want it. The biggest donors are crusaders like Tom Steyer, the San Francisco investor and climate change activist, has given $40.9 million to his Next Gen Climate Action Committee and $5 million to Senate Majority according to an NPR review of Federal Election Commission records. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has donated $6.9 million to his pro-gun control Independence USA PAC and $2 million to Emily’s List’s Women Vote SuperPAC.
Grassroots fundraising for the Dems remains strong. They have thousands of more individual donors than does the GOP. Now Dems do have Non-Profit organizations associated to them take Dark Money, i.e. donations they do not have to disclose. No info regarding who gave how much, just totals for the IRS.
The two largest of these is Patriot Majority USA and the League of Conservation Voters are the only Democratic-leaning nonprofits that have spent more than $1 million on election-related activity so far, with each reporting about $7 million in spending to the FEC. How much groups like these spend is the only way to estimate how much they have raised. We do not know how much additional money they have on hand. Let’s assume it is another two million for a total of $10 million.
$10 Million plus $453 Million is $463 Million for the Dems.
The GOP has raised $289 Million through its own SuperPacs.
How is the Dark Money? Americans for Prosperity, founded by the industrialist billionaire Koch brothers, has already been running tens of millions worth of ads attacking Democratic senators in key states. Now it says it will also run ads specifically telling voters to defeat those Democrats on Nov. 4. It will not reveal how much it intends to spend, but earlier media reports suggest the group’s total outlays this election total outlays will likely approach $350.
Crossroads GPS, co-founded by GOP operative Karl Rove, is on track to raise some $125 million this election, according to spokesman Paul Lindsay, and will spend at least $33 million of that in the final two months of the campaign in six states.
The Chamber of Commerce is spending heavily approaching the $23 million mark. Best guess is that the Chamber will invest $30 million in the midterms.
The total for GOP Dark Money: $505 million
Add $505 Million to $289 Million and you get a total of $794 Million.
$794 Million for the GOP vs. $463 Million for the Dems.
That’s a $331 Million advantage for the GOP.
How much those politically oriented nonprofit groups will actually raise and spend won’t be known until next spring, when their annual filings to the Internal Revenue Service come due. But while those documents show how much was raised and how it was spent, the names of the donors will likely remain secret forever.
The difference between the two approaches, Light Money in SuperPacs and DarkMoney in Not For Profits, might be unnoticeable to the typical voter. A so-called “issue ad” will recite all the terrible things a senator has done, and then urge viewers to call that senator’s office to register their displeasure. That is what Dark Money is used for. An “express advocacy” ad will recite those same terrible things, but then tell the viewer to vote that senator out of office. That is what Light Money is used for.
Though slight, the distinction makes all the difference in the world, at least in the way the FEC and the IRS interpret election and tax law. By using words like “vote” or “defeat” or “elect,” an ad is seen as attempting to sway an election and dark money may not be used for that. Ads that don’t use those words are merely educating the public on “issues.” The IRS has ruled that nonprofit groups must spend the majority of their money on “social welfare” functions — such as educating the public — in order to maintain the tax status that enables them to keep their donors’ names secret. Most of the ads on TV today fit that description and the GOP has a lot more money for those ads.
Most of this came about as a result of the deconstruction of campaign finance laws and a series of Supreme Court rulings creating a structure that allows the wealthy to influence elections without public accountability, thereby undermining the “who-gave-who-got” premise behind disclosure laws. Those who regard these structures as good say that disclosure laws unfairly silence their donors because they fear public criticism and boycotts of their businesses.
AND THAT IS WHAT WILL LIKELY WIN THE SENATE FOR THE GOP.