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This Week in Dark Money

June 10, 2016 | dark money watch |
Alex Wong/Getty Images Alex Wong/Getty Images

When it comes to dark money — money spent trying to influence voters by groups that do not disclose their donors — the focus is often on the federal level. But a considerable amount of dark money is also going to state and local elections. Our weekly roundup looks at dark money spending in those races.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the biggest spender among 501(c)(6) groups so far this election cycle, is making a big investment in Nevada’s Senate race, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The conservative group has already spent more than $2 million to support Rep. Joe Heck, who is expected to win next week’s GOP primary for Harry Reid’s U.S. Senate seat. (The Democrat announced his retirement last year.) The chamber’s political director told the Review-Journal that his organization is “taking a very aggressive posture in this election,” viewing the race as key to its efforts to expand the Republican majority in the Senate.

A battle over reinstating campaign contributions limits in Missouri is dividing conservative Republicans in the state, according to Moyers and Company. An anti-abortion activist is bankrolling a ballot initiative to limit individual contributions to campaigns for statewide office and the state legislature to $2,600. Party contributions would be capped at $25,000. A small group of GOP lawmakers support the initiative, but, according to Moyers and Co., Rex Sinquefield, who has donated millions to Republican candidates and committees in the state, is expected to lead the fight against it. The Missouri Secretary of State’s Office is expected to announce in the coming weeks whether the initiative has qualified for the ballot. Currently, Missouri has no limits on campaign contributions or gifts from lobbyists.

Californians will be able to vote on whether elected officials should use “all of their constitutional authority” to reverse the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, the Sacramento Bee reported. Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday allowed the advisory measure to be placed on the November ballot. The nonbinding measure encourages elected officials to work to reverse the Court’s decision, which allowed corporations and unions to spend unlimited amounts of money on elections.

Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York unveiled a series of measures aimed at limiting the role of outside groups in elections, as we reported Wednesday. The Governor called on lawmakers to pass legislation applying the same contribution limits to limited liability corporations (LLCs) as traditional companies. He also presented a non-binding opinion from Alphonso David, counsel to the governor, detailing what factors regulators should examine when considering whether an independent expenditure group is coordinating with a candidate’s campaign.

City council members in Austin, Texas are considering an ordinance that would require greater disclosure from dark money groups, according to the Austin Monitor. Under the measure, any group spending money to support or oppose a candidate or ballot measure would have to report the names and employers of all persons who donated more than $250 to the organization. The regulation would also require intermediaries transferring amounts of more than $500 from donors to another group to disclose the same information. If the City Council and the Ethics Review Commission approve the measure, parts of it will be implemented before the November election.

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