POLITICS: Campaigns

Liberals spending more 'dark money' than conservatives in 2014 election cycle

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Beltway Confidential,Campaign Finance,2014 Elections,Campaigns,Ashe Schow,Dark money

Falling from one’s high horse can really hurt.

Liberals have publicly decried the use of “dark money” by conservative activist groups in campaigns, the most notable of which is perhaps FreedomWorks, the Tea Party spark plug.

But maybe what they really want isn't to remove dark money from campaigns, but to figure out how to get more of it to Democrats than Republicans.

And so far in the 2014 campaign cycle, they have.

Dark money refers to spending by 501(c)(4) and 501(c)(6) nonprofits that are not required to disclose their donors.

At this point in the 2014 election cycle, liberal dark money makes up 70 percent of dark money spent so far.

Liberal groups have spent more than $1.7 million so far, a 6,700 percent increase from their spending at this point in the 2012 election cycle, according to OpenSecrets.org

Overall, $2.5 million has been spent so far in the 2014 cycle from both sides of the aisle, compared to $440,678 at this point in the 2012 cycle.

“The increases are only part of the story, though,” OpenSecrets' Robert Maguire said. “There's also a leftward ideological shift taking place when it comes to who's spending the money.”

Maguire said more dark money has been spent this cycle supporting candidates instead of opposing them, as was usually the case in previous election cycles.

Conservative groups accounted for 88 percent of all dark money spending in the 2010 cycle (the cycle during which the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision was delivered) and 85 percent in the 2012 cycle, according to Maguire.

Conservative dark money spending has increased too, however. Spending on the conservative side is 78 percent higher now than it was at the same point in the 2012 cycle. This represents a far smaller increase than liberal spending.

Maguire said it's early in the 2014 cycle, so the trend could turn back toward conservatives.

But with two governors' races and a handful of special elections already over, Democrats no longer have a leg to stand on in decrying dark money.

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