A network of dark money groups appear to have violated campaign finance laws by funneling super PAC contributions through their organizations, according to an FEC complaint filed today by CREW. The groups appear to have violated the Federal Election Campaign Act, which requires the true source of political contributions to be disclosed and bars contributions in the name of another. Five nonprofits tied to the network made contributions totaling $1.27 million to federally registered super PACs in 2020.
The network appears to have been controlled by political consultants who reportedly pitched one or more clients on a funding structure that could be used to evade public reporting requirements by routing contributions through nonprofit organizations. In an apparent effort to carry out the scheme, the nonprofits in the network subsequently made contributions to super PACs, which falsely reported them as originating from those nonprofits rather than their true sources, allowing donors to remain hidden from the public. The nonprofits involved in the scheme appear to include Grow United, which is at the center of the so-called “ghost” candidate scandal in Florida, as well as the Center for Advancement of Integrity and Justice, Florida Promise, Broken Promises and Stand Up for Justice.
“When political contributions are made through dark money groups, the public is denied their right to know who is influencing their elections. Campaign finance laws are meant to ensure transparency in elections so that voters can make an informed decision based on all the facts,” said CREW President Noah Bookbinder. “The FEC must act and investigate whether these dark money groups broke the law and hold them accountable.”
“When political contributions are made through dark money groups, the public is denied their right to know who is influencing their elections.”
The FECA prohibits making and knowingly accepting contributions in the name of another person, as well as allowing one’s name to be used to effect a contribution in the name of another person. Federal law also requires political committees like super PACs to report the identity of the true source of contributions and anyone who acted as a conduit for a contribution.
“Voters need to know who is funding efforts to impact elections, especially as dark money groups try to evade accountability and mislead voters by hiding their donors,” said Bookbinder. “It’s time we put an end to dark money groups that obscure the source of their funding in violation of the law in order to secretly influence our elections.”
CREW previously filed an IRS complaint against Broken Promises after it apparently failed to properly disclose its political contributions and served to primarily influence political campaigns.