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Dark Money: New Leaven for Corrupt Politics

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By Mike Scruggs- In 2010, the United States Supreme Court held in the case of Citizens United versus the Federal Election Commission that the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting independent political expenditures by corporations, associations, or labor unions. This seemed to be a victory for the Constitution and conservatives, but later developments showed that public good can quickly be corrupted by powerful special interests seeking unwarranted gain.

Outside spending refers to independent political campaign expenditures made by groups or individuals not coordinated with candidate campaign committees. It has increased dramatically since 2012. As of May 30, 2014, outside spending in U.S. primary races had already reached a record $100 million.

A great danger to the integrity of American elections has evolved from the combination of election spending by 501c political nonprofit organizations and super PACs. Social welfare organizations (501c-4) and trade associations (501c-6) are not required to disclose their sources of funds. Super PACs are political action committees enabled by the Citizens United decision to accept unlimited contributions from individuals and organizations—including unions, corporations, 501c-4 social welfare organizations, and 501c-6 trade associations—and spend unlimited amounts in support of, or against, a candidate, so long as they do not coordinate with candidates or campaign committees.

Hence 501c-4 and 501c-6 organizations can contribute unlimited amounts to one or more super PACs, and the only source shown on the super PAC Federal Election Committee report is the name of the 501c organization, Citizens for Wonderful Stuff or whatever. Thus 501c-4 organizations are frequently used as “dark money.” A super PAC armed with dark money can spend millions of dollars on media ads and campaign literature for a candidate and against his opponent, and nobody knows who or where it is coming from. The vast majority of super PAC funds flowing into the North and South Carolina primary elections came from out of state. There is no guarantee that they are not coming from foreign counties or their U.S. political fronts. For example, how much money from Muslim Brotherhood 501c-4 front organizations will be spent by super PACs in U.S. primaries and the general election? Super PAC names are often deceptive. Facebook’s liberal CEO Mark Zuckerman’s super PAC promoting amnesty and huge increases in legal foreign workers is titled “Americans for a Conservative Direction.” The PAC’s 2014 primary support for Senator Lindsey Graham (R, SC) should exceed $1.0 million.

The Republican Primary challenge to conservative incumbent Representative Walter Jones in NC District 3 was surprisingly successful, holding Jones to 50.9 percent of the vote to 45.1 percent for challenger Taylor Griffin in a three-man race. The lavishly funded challenge was predominantly financed by just two super PACs funded by dark money associated with “moderate” Republican backers of amnesty and with Wall Street banking interests. According to, as of June 7, “the Emergency Committee for Israel,” steered by “moderate” Republican Bill Kristol, a close ally of John McCain, spent $316,938 for ads favorable to Griffin or defaming Jones.

All this money did not come against Walter Jones because he answered “present” on a vote to continue funding Israel during the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. Most think it was the immigration issue. Walter Jones is probably the strongest opponent of amnesty in the North Carolina delegation, with a 94 percent rating on immigration issues by NumbersUSA. McCain is one of the strongest advocates of amnesty and increased legal immigration in Congress, and Bill Kristol has always been a strong ally in that regard. McCain and Kristol’s effort was a part of the full-court replacement and bullying press to pass McCain’s Senate amnesty bill, S.744, in the House. Considerable dark money sums were spent in both North and South Carolina for this purpose, including two other North Carolina Congressional Districts.

The “Ending Spending Action Fund” PAC started by AmeriTrade founder John Ricketts and casino gambling magnate Sheldon Adelson spent $734,609 promoting Griffin and defaming Jones. The issue was Jones’s frequent outspoken criticism of Wall Street banks, mortgage lenders, and casualty insurance companies taking advantage of many of his constituents, including trying to raise flood insurance rates by outrageous amounts. According to the Charlotte Observer, some family flood insurance rates would have gone from $850 to as high as $21,000 per year. House Speaker John Boehner stripped Jones of his position on the House Banking/Financial Services Committee under pressure from these same Wall Street banks and financial service companies. Walter Jones’s overall rating by the American Conservative Union, however, is 84 percent above the average for Republican House members of 76.5 percent.

Taylor Griffin is a former Treasury aide in the Bush administration. He moved into the 3rd Congressional District from Washington, where he was essentially a lobbyist, in October 2013. The super PAC ads tried to make Griffin more of a “mainstream” conservative than the sometimes maverick and more populist Jones. Griffin claimed in an ad, “I’ve also owned my own business, so I know what it means to make a budget and stick to it.” The fact is that much of his $406,000 annual income as a lobbyist came from Wall Street firms notorious for questionable products and practices, most notably “robo-signing” unlawful foreclosures, criticized by Jones.

Walter Jones has sometimes been critical of U.S. foreign policy, but he has been a true friend of U.S. military personnel and veterans. He has been the most active member of the House in speaking up for the religious liberties of military chaplains and military personnel under the Obama Administration.

The attack on Walter Jones by Republican establishment supporters of amnesty and cheap foreign labor and by Wall Street special interests is an example of the dangers of dark money. The American people are losing control of elections by massive media dominance of special interest super PACs, funded by unknown donors. Many of these media ads are also outrageous in their distortions, deceptions, and cynical disregard for truth. We are on a dangerous political and moral course.

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