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This Week In Local Dark Money News

November 05, 2016 | dark money watch |
Getty Images/Matthew Borkoski Getty Images/Matthew Borkoski

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 at the local, state and federal levels.

A new report from the Brennan Center for Justice finds that outside groups have outspent candidates and parties in ten key U.S. Senate races: Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Outside groups were responsible for 51 percent of spending — about $282 million so far; candidate campaigns provided $241 million in spending; and political parties spent around $39 million, according to the report. Dark money represented 16 percent of all of the outside spending on these races, the report found.

Two dark money groups funding Missouri Republican gubernatorial candidate Eric Greitens appear to be linked, according to campaign finance watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. American Policy Coalition is the sole funder of SEALs for Truth, a super PAC that donated nearly $2 million directly to Greitens’ campaign. APC is a politically active nonprofit and is not required to disclose its donors. Documents reviewed by CREW show that John Jude is director and treasurer of APC and a principal officer of Freedom Frontier, another political nonprofit, which gave $4.37 million to LG PAC, a super PAC that has funded ads supporting Greitens. According to CREW, the nonprofits are linked to “an infamous dark money network.” Greitens is also under investigation for possibly using a donor list from a charity he founded to solicit campaign donations.

Two Massachusetts teachers unions have filed a formal complaint against Wall Street firms whose executives funded groups supporting a charter school ballot measure there, MapLight reports. The complaint comes as a result of a MapLight/International Business Times article revealing that executives of firms managing teachers’ pension assets have donated $778,000 to groups backing Question 2. Gov. Charlie Baker has been a vocal advocate for the initiative, and recently appeared in an ad urging its passage. While ballot measure committees are not covered by the Securities and Exchange Commission’s pay-to-play rule, the unions want regulators to investigate if the donations violate the rule’s anti-circumvention provisions.

A federal judge has upheld a Montana disclosure law, KTVQ reports. The 2015 Disclose Act requires political committees to reveal their donors if their advertisements mention a candidate within 60 days of an election. A pro-business group, Montanans for Community Development, challenged the regulation, claiming the law violates free speech. Ruling against the group, U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen of Missoula wrote, “Providing Montana voters with information about individuals and groups competing for their attention serve important government interests.”

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