Dark Money Funding Today’s Politics

Grind for August 22nd, 2018
“We are no longer puppets being manipulated by outside powerful forces: we become the powerful force ourselves.”

– Leo Buscaglia

Not Again

The Headline

Trump attacks social media sites for censoring conservative content

The Grind

“Social media is totally discriminating against Republican/Conservative voices,” tweeted Trump on Saturday. “Speaking loudly and clearly for the Trump Administration, we won’t let that happen. They are closing down the opinions of many people on the RIGHT, while at the same time doing nothing to others.”

Trump’s comments came days after Twitter suspended the account of far-right talk show host Alex Jones amid public criticism of his posts.

Twitter insists it does not single out conservatives for stricter enforcement and claims Jones was suspended for violating company policy.

Jones, who owns the conspiracy theory website InfoWars, has also been censored by Apple, YouTube, and Facebook.

The Details

While social media companies are under pressure to remove fake and abusive content from their sites, their efforts to do so have drawn fire from critics who claim the sites are censoring conservative opinions.

“Censorship is a very dangerous thing & absolutely impossible to police,” tweeted Trump. “Let everybody participate, good & bad, and we will all just have to figure it out!”

Mr. Jones, who insists the Sandy Hook school shooting (2012) was a hoax, urged President Trump to “come out before the midterms and make the censorship the big issue.”

Jones also asked Trump to “come out and point out that the Communist Chinese have penetrated and infiltrated and are way, way worse than the Russians.”

Trump on Saturday tweeted: “All the fools that are so focused on looking only at Russia should start also looking in another direction, China.”

Trump also made it clear that he is not asking social media sites to ban “fake news” outlets like MSNBC and CNN. “I get used to it and watch with a grain of salt, or don’t watch at all.”

Under The Table

The Headline

How Super PACs are keeping their donors secret

The Grind

Super PACs are coming up with some clever ways to hide donor information.

One common tactic is to withhold spending until just before an election. That way, reports on who financed the group aren’t due until after the election is over. These so-called “pop-up super PACs” gather pledges for donations and plan out spending ahead of time so they can jump into the race at the last minute.

Other PACs manipulate deadlines for the same effect, or simply refuse to include donor information on reports to the FEC. This behavior suggests PACs see more risk in revealing big-money donors than in breaking campaign finance law.

The Details

According to the Campaign Legal Center, more than 20 super PACs (that spent more than $1 million on recent elections) did not reveal their donors until the elections were over.

In 2017, the PAC Highway 31 spent more than $4 million supporting Alabama Democrat Doug Jones in his campaign against Republican Roy Moore.

Highway 31 did not include donor information in its reports to the FEC until after the election. That’s when we found out the PAC was funded largely by groups linked to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

Earlier this year, the PAC Mountain Families manipulated its disclosure deadlines to keep its funders secret until after the West Virginia primary on May 8th.

Mountain Families, which spent more than $1.3 million attacking Republican coal baron Don Blankenship, was funded mainly by Senator Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) Senate Leadership Fund.

The PAC Red and Gold, which has already spent more than $1 million attacking GOP Senate candidate Rep. Martha McSally in advance of the Arizona Republican primary, told the FEC it would begin submitting monthly reports on September 20th. The election takes place on August 28th.

This behavior is very dangerous for a democracy, especially with foreign interests trying to influence our elections. But even within our country we need to know the influencers. On the other hand, small contributors might be targeted if the information becomes public. It’s a tough mess that needs to be straightened out.

Did you know… It takes a photon 170,000 years to travel from the core of the Sun to the surface, but only 8 minutes to travel the rest of the way to Earth.