Jan 30, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Dark money cash rivals national parties

Data: The New York Times; Licensed by Axios; Chart: Thomas Oide/Axios
Data: The New York Times; Licensed by Axios; Chart: Thomas Oide/Axios

New data from the New York Times on so-called dark money in U.S. politics shows how both the left and right have centralized and streamlined the distribution of massive amounts of donations in ways that obscure their origins.

Why it matters: The hundreds of millions funneled to politically active nonprofits on both sides rival the war chests of national political parties themselves. But the groups operate independently, often run by people whose roles are opaque or unknown entirely and with sources of financing that will likely never be revealed.

The big picture: A Times analysis of nonprofit financial data shows clear leaders among politically active dark money groups.

  • On the left, the Sixteen Thirty Fund has raked in hundreds of millions on behalf of scores of subsidiary groups that work on issues ranging from voting rights to tech regulation to judicial nominations.
  • On the right, the Koch political network's Stand Together disburses millions each year to organizations aligned with its libertarian political outlook.
  • Both sides also have deep-pocketed nonprofits affiliated with high-dollar super PACs constantly working to sway key congressional races.

Between the lines: Those groups fill many of the key roles of any political infrastructure such as advertising, voter registration and turnout, issue advocacy and data collection.

  • But while campaigns and party committees engaged in that work must disclose substantial details about their activities and funding sources, these groups largely operate in the shadows.
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