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Last Week In Local Dark Money News

July 18, 2016 | dark money watch |
Alex Wong/Getty Images Alex Wong/Getty Images

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.

More and more members of Congress are relying on out-of-state contributions to fund their campaigns, according to a new report from The Center for Responsive Politics. So far in  2016, 31 Congress members have received more than 75 percent of their contributions from sources outside their states. That’s up from 16 in 2012. Five lawmakers are on track to raise 90 percent of their funds from out-of-state, including Rep. Rob Bishop. The Utah Republican has raised nearly 93 percent of his campaign cash outside the state.

Democrat Baron Hill cited dark money as one of the reasons he dropped out of Indiana’s U.S. Senate race. In a statement, Hill said that while his campaign had done well fundraising, “it is simply not enough to fight back against the slew of out-of-state, special interest and dark money that is certain to come our way between now and November.” Taking Hill’s place, former Senator and Governor Evan Bayh will again be running for Senate the Herald Bulletin reports.  Bayh is far from short of funds, according to The Center for Responsive Politics.

The Federal Election Commission fined three organizations for failing to disclose money they received to buy political ads, a move the New York Times described as “a rare intervention by the commission into the world of outside spending.” American Future Fund, 60 Plus Association and Americans for Job Security all received money from the Arizona-based Center to Protect Patient Rights, (now known as American Encore) for independent expenditures. The four organizations were associated with the Koch donor work, according to The Center for Responsive Politics. The FEC took action after a complaint filed last year by the political watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. While many campaign reform advocates hailed the decision, EJ Montini, writing in The Arizona Republic, called the $233,000 fine “chump change.”

Rep. Diane Black of Tennessee, a Republican, is calling on her primary opponent, Joe Carr, to ask the dark money group that is targeting her to release its donors, The Tennessean reports. The group, Power of Liberty, has sponsored radio and mail ads that question Black’s conservative track record. As a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization, the group does not have to reveal its funders. However, Jonathan Frank, a spokesman for Black, said the group should disclose its donors. “The issue in this race is that this dark money group is spending more money than Joe Carr is raising on his own,” Frank said. “For all practical purposes, this group is his campaign.”

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