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This Week In Local Dark Money News

December 07, 2016 | dark money watch |
Getty Images/Matthew Borkoski Getty Images/Matthew Borkoski

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 at the local, state and federal levels.

Missouri’s new, voter-approved campaign contribution limits could have an unintended effect: it may increase the political clout of large donors, according to a spokesperson for Rex Sinquefield, one of the state’s most high-profile donors. The spokesman, Travis Brown, told The Washington Times that because donors can give unlimited amounts of money to super PACs and dark money groups, the new law “won’t change big donors’ activities at all, except you just won’t be able to track them.”

The candidates with the most money won 92 percent of Michigan’s House races, according to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. Of the 110 state house races, 101 went to candidates who outraised their opponents. Of the ten candidates who received the most money, the five who won were Republicans and the five who lost were Democrats. The top ten candidates averaged $601,237 in contributions.

An Arkansas lawmaker has introduced a bill aimed at eliminating dark money, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports. The legislation, introduced by Democratic Rep. Clarke Tucker, requires groups spending more than $1,000 on political advertising in a calendar year to disclose their donors’ names and addresses. The bill would also increase restrictions on coordination between outside spending groups and candidates.

The Federal Election Commission will not determine whether a  politically active nonprofit in North Carolina should have disclosed the donors that financed ads it bought during the 2014 election cycle, the Center for Responsive Politics reports. The agency’s commissioners deadlocked along party lines over whether Carolina Rising should have registered as a political committee. The organization had spent $4.7 million — or 97 percent of its expenditures in 2014 — on ads to boost the campaign of Republican U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis, who unseated incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan. At Tillis’ victory party, the head of Carolina Rising was not shy about discussing how much his group had spent on the Republican’s behalf. He told a television reporter, “$4.7 million. We did it!”

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