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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Has Made It His Personal Mission to Keep the Dark Money Spigot Open | Latest News!

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court nomination hearings focused heavily on “dark money.” However, some of the strongest critics of dark money are solely responsible for the flood of covert political expenditure that has tainted American politics.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Jackson was “the chosen pick of far-left dark-money groups” on the day President Joe Biden announced her nomination. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, pretended to be concerned about the “troubling influence of far-left dark money groups” in the judicial selection process on the first day of Jackson’s confirmation hearings.

Judicial Crisis Network, which pioneered dark money spending on judicial nominations, has spent at least $2.5 million on ads criticizing the “dark money” it believes is supporting Jackson’s candidacy. (These assaults are primarily directed at Demand Justice, which was founded in 2018 as a liberal counterweight to JCN but has spent significantly less than JCN.) It’s hilarious for a major dark money group to criticize dark money, as The Washington Post’s Fact Checker and others have pointed out.

But the dishonesty of Republican senators, particularly McConnell, is on another level: they are criticizing a system that they have helped to build, not just maintain.

Last year, McConnell, Grassley, and their colleagues had a chance to do something about the judicial nominees flooded with dark money. These Republican senators, on the other hand, exploited their influence to keep dark money hidden.

The House enacted the For the People Act in 2021, which included comprehensive provisions to shed a light on dark money, including dark money spent on judicial nominations, among other things. Some of the bill’s voting rights and ethics protections were removed before it reached the Senate, but the transparency measures remained.

The bill was blocked by McConnell, Grassley, and every other Republican senator. If they hadn’t, left-wing organizations like Demand Justice and right-wing groups like Judicial Crisis Network would have been forced to reveal the names of affluent contributors who gave $10,000 or more. Today, these politicians would have had little “black money” to complain about.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Has Made It His Personal Mission to Keep the Dark Money Spigot Open
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Has Made It His Personal Mission to Keep the Dark Money Spigot Open | Latest News!

McConnell’s new anti-dark money campaign is especially callous. He not only voted against the law, but he also criticized its anti-dark money provisions and suggested an amendment to remove the bill’s transparency provisions, claiming that keeping wealthy donors hidden was vital to safeguard “associational privacy.” When the bill cleared the House, McConnell said it “tramples on Americans’ privacy,” echoing a talking point he’s used in the past to argue against increased donor openness. (This is on top of his amicus brief requesting the Supreme Court to overturn California’s charity disclosure laws, which he filed last year.)

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He made it his personal goal to keep the spigot of dark money open. A top McConnell adviser informed several influential dark money groups in a recording acquired by The New Yorker that McConnell was “not going to back down” in his opposition to the bill, particularly its “donor privacy” features.

However, another nugget of information emerged from the recording, one that may be important to the GOP’s recent messaging: Ending secret money is popular with voters across the political spectrum, according to internal polls conducted by a Koch-backed lobbying group. According to The New Yorker, a spokesperson of the Koch group remarked on the call, “There’s a significant, very large, portion of conservatives who are supportive of these types of operations.”

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Given the public’s widespread and bipartisan opposition to hidden political spending, McConnell and other affluent special interests appear to have given up trying to persuade voters that dark money stands for “donor privacy” and that transparency is an “assault on speech.”

Instead, they’ll cynically muddy the waters by attempting to perplex the public as to who is spending dark money and who is striving to keep it hidden.

Dark money is a legitimate source of concern for the general population. When millions of dollars in hidden political spending dominate judicial confirmation battles, the public and politicians have no idea who is trying to sway them or how the wealthy special interests who are secretly funding these campaigns hope to benefit from the Supreme Court’s decisions.

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As the 2022 midterm elections near, we can expect to see millions more in dark money spent to sway our votes by both Democrats and Republicans. When millions of dollars in dark money is spent on elections, people have no way of knowing what the hidden funders are getting in return from the candidates they support.

Candidates of all stripes are criticizing dark money’s role in politics, but voters should demand more than rhetoric. Politicians who complain about dark money but refuse to support laws to clean it up are contributing to the problem.



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