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This Week In Local Dark Money News

June 17, 2016 | dark money watch |
Getty Images/Snap Decision Getty Images/Snap Decision

When it comes to dark money — money spent trying to influence voters by groups that do not disclose their donors — the focus is often on the federal level. But a considerable amount of dark money is also going to state and local elections. Our weekly roundup looks at dark money spending in those races.

Dark money groups spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in an effort to oust Republican state Senate leaders in South Carolina’s primary, according to documents and records examined by The State. One group, A Great Day SC, is run by a top advisor to Republican Gov. Nikki Haley. The organization targeted leaders who opposed Haley’s agenda. Two of its three targets won their primary races, according to ABC 4.

A Montana state judge ruled Friday that a state legislator who was found guilty of taking illegal contributions from an anti-union dark money group can remain in office, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported. Earlier this year, a jury convicted Republican Rep. Art Wittich of taking $19,599 in illegal and unreported in-kind contributions from the National Right to Work Committee during his 2010 primary election campaign. Wittich, who has denied any wrongdoing, lost his primary campaign earlier this month. The judge ordered him to pay a $68,232 fine.

New York’s state legislative session ended Friday night with lawmakers and Governor Andrew Cuomo coming to an agreement on ethics reform, The Wall Street Journal reports. Governor Andrew Cuomo made headlines earlier this month when he urged the state legislature to pass ethics reforms meant to curtail the effect of the Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United ruling. Under the agreement, candidates, their family members, and former staffers are prohibited from forming independent expenditure committees. The agreement also defines what constitutes “coordination” between independent expenditure committees and candidates, requires lobbyists advocating on their own behalf to disclose their source of funds to the Joint Commissioner on Public Ethics, and requires 501(c)(4) organizations to report financial or in-kind contributions from 501(c)(3) organizations, which are barred from engaging in political activities.

Watchdog group Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington (CREW) has filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service against 10 social welfare organizations, alleging they violated their nonprofit tax status by operating with politics as their primary purpose or failing to report political spending. The groups include Oklahomans for a Conservative Future, Arizona Future Fund, and Michigan Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility. CREW also filed complaints with the U.S. Department of Justice against six of the groups, asking the agency to investigate whether they lied to the IRS about their political activity.

 

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