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Last Week in Local Dark Money News

June 28, 2016 | dark money watch |
Benjamin Van Der Spek / EyeEm curtesy of Getty Benjamin Van Der Spek / EyeEm curtesy of Getty

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 spending in state and local elections has soared, according to a new report by the Brennan Center for Justice. The report, which examined election spending in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Maine, and Massachusetts, found that dark money contributions to super PACs in those states increased from less than $190,000 in 2006 to over $9.2 million in 2014. For many contests, however, dark money groups outspent candidates by investing around $100,000. The Brennan Center, which argues for overturning Citizens United, claims that outside spending “has veered from the vision of democratic transparency” the U.S. Supreme Court described in its ruling.

The U.S. District Court in Washington, DC had a hearing scheduled for Friday in a case that some are calling the next Citizens United. The Louisiana State Republican Party is suing the Federal Election Commission, claiming that state political parties should be allowed to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections, like Super PACs. James Bopp, who successfully argued the Citizens United case before the U.S. Supreme Court, is representing Louisiana’s state GOP. If the party wins, few restrictions will remain on how parties use money to influence federal elections, according to advocates for campaign finance limits.

A politically active nonprofit has entered the debate over how best to help more than 11,000 opioid abusers in Pennsylvania, the Reading Eagle reports. The nonprofit is the Drug and Alcohol Service Providers Organization of Pennsylvania, which, according to the Eagle, is “a powerful industry lobbying group” that “has a major role in steering drug and alcohol legislation.” State lawmakers are debating whether $34 million in new funding should be focused on medication or long-term residential treatment programs. Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati, a Republican, recently wrote in a letter to Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, that DASPOP has “unbridled control” over the the state’s Department of Drug and Alcohol programs. According to Scarnati, who favors medication-based treatment, DASPOP’s lobbying for residential treatment is not “based on sound science.” The governor’s office is preparing a response to the letter. Almost 2,500 people died of drug overdoses in Pennsylvania in 2014.

The city council in Austin, Texas has voted to tighten dark money regulations, the Austin American-Statesman reported. Under the new rules, politically active nonprofits will be required to disclose the names of contributors who give at least $500 to support a candidate or ballot measure. The requirement takes effect September 1.

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