How Democrats can end the 'electoral scourge' and enact a 'ban on dark money' in primaries: columnist

How Democrats can end the 'electoral scourge' and enact a 'ban on dark money' in primaries: columnist
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When the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its 5-4 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission in 2010, critics of the decision predicted that a flood of dark money would pour into the United States’ elections. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, a scathing critic of the ruling, has complained that Citizens United “launched unlimited money into our elections and opened the gateway to unlimited dark money.”

Liberal/progressive Washington Post opinion columnist Katrina vanden Heuvel slams dark money as an “electoral scourge” in her September 6 column, arguing that Democrats need to do as much as they can to remove dark money from their primaries.

“A deluge of this unregulated, often undisclosed cash has flooded the 2022 primary season, influencing elections nationwide,” vanden Heuvel explains. “Senate Republicans, backed by corporate lobbies, consistently block congressional action on the issue. But now, Democrats, at least, have the opportunity to clean up their own primaries.”

READ MORE: Anonymous dark money’s destructive influence on American politics is 'getting worse': report

The columnist continues, “When the Democratic National Committee gathers in Washington this week, Judith Whitmer, chair of the state party in Nevada, and more than 30 DNC members will support DNC Resolution 19, calling on the party to ban dark money in Democratic primaries. No one can doubt that action is imperative. According to the nonpartisan research group OpenSecrets, dark money topped $1 billion in the 2020 presidential race. This year, the Wesleyan Media Project reported, nearly 60 percent of all ads in Democratic House primaries have been purchased by sources that did not disclose, or only partially disclosed, their donors.”

Vanden Heuvel stresses that the DNC “has the authority to act” where dark money in DNC primaries is concerned but warns that a “ban on dark money from outside groups won’t be easy” for the Democratic Party “to enforce.”

“The Whitmer resolution calls for the party to set up mechanisms to investigate and expose the use of dark money, and to empower states to set primary rules to ensure transparency,” Vanden Heuvel notes. “Likely measures could include requiring all candidates to disavow outside advertising by groups with undisclosed donors. Sanctions against contracting with campaign firms and operatives who work for groups in violation would be even more effective…. The Democratic National Committee can take action to clean its own house. It should not fail this test.”

READ MORE: Dark money fueled the Jan. 6 insurrection — but we still don't know who paid for them: Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse

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