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CREW Releases Shadow Governors Report on Dark Money

Washington—More than one in three governors holding office as of January 31, 2017 can be linked to secretive state-level dark money or shadow governance groups, according to Shadow Governors, a new report released today by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). Seventy percent of the identified groups did not voluntarily disclose their donors to the public.

Shadow governance groups are 501(c)(4) nonprofit organizations that don’t have to disclose their donors and spend to support an officeholder on policy issues. These groups almost certainly operate with the officeholder’s knowledge—some governors are publicly involved, even actively soliciting donations on their behalf, while other groups are run by governors’ family, staffers or donors. Shadow Governors, which coined the term, is the first report to investigate the activities of this troubling trend across all 50 states.

CREW’s research found that nearly half of all Republican governors and one quarter of all Democratic governors in office as of January 31, 2017 could be linked to a shadow governance group, a dark money group, or both. In all, CREW identified 30 nonprofits associated with 19 governors.

“Shadow governance groups allow governors to benefit from unlimited spending by sources unknown to the public — but possibly known to them,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said. “This is a growing, cutting edge way for secret money to influence politics, and we need to start paying more attention to it.”

The 19 governors CREW identified include Ohio’s John Kasich, New York’s Andrew Cuomo, Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, and Missouri’s Eric Greitens.

“First, secret money changed the way elections were fought and paid for; now the spending has moved beyond elections,” said Bookbinder. “This unchecked spending means that special interests and deep-pocketed donors can exert more influence than ever before.”