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 state and federal levels.
A group backed by billionaires Charles and David Koch will launch ads to support Republican Senate candidates in Nevada, Ohio and Pennsylvania, Time reports. The ads were previewed at the Koch’s annual donor retreat in Colorado Springs, CO. The group is also considering ad buys to support Republican Senatorial candidates in Florida, Wisconsin, and Indiana. At the retreat, Charles Koch reiterated that he would not support Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton in the presidential race.
The Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting has created a twitter bot to help monitor dark money in the state, KJZZ reports. The bot, @AZDarkMoneyBot, tweets in nearly real time, reporting when a dark money group spends money on an election. Evan Wyloge, who helped develop the bot, told KJZZ that he hopes the public will use it to monitor dark money spending in the state’s elections. Earlier this year, the state’s legislature passed a law ceding most of Arizona’s ability to regulate dark money spending to the IRS, effectively eliminating donor disclosure requirements.
Republican Rep. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, a three-term incumbent and member of the House Freedom Caucus, lost his primary bid Tuesday night. According to Politico, the race between Huelskamp and Roger Marshall had become a proxy battle between hard-line conservatives and their more establishment counterparts. Outside groups spent more than $2.5 million on the race. McClatchy reported that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the most active dark money group so far in the 2016 election cycle, spent $200,000 on ads to support Marshall, and another $200,000 on ads attacking Huelskamp. Speaking to reporters on election night, Huelskamp blamed the large amount of outside money in the race for his loss.
A supporter of U.S. Rep. Diane Black (R-Tennessee) has filed a complaint against a dark money group with the Federal Election Commission, The Tennessean reports. The complaint alleges that Power of Liberty, a politically active nonprofit that funded a series of negative ads against Black during the primary campaign, should have reported those spots as electioneering communications to the FEC. An ad is an electioneering communication if it runs 60 days before a general election or 30 days before a primary and refers to a clearly identified federal candidate. The ads against Black met both criteria, according to the complaint. However, the group’s registered agent, conservative activist Steve Gill, has said Power of Liberty will only report its spending to the IRS, not the FEC. Spending on electioneering ads over $10,000 must be reported to the FEC within 24 hours; while other forms of spending by politically active nonprofits may not be disclosed until after an election. Despite the ads, Black won the Republican primary Thursday night by wide margin over her opponent, Joe Carr.
On Tuesday, Eric Greitens won Missouri’s Republican gubernatorial primary. Greitens’ ability to attract large campaign contributions was an advantage in the hotly contested race, although he has faced scrutiny over some of those donations. As we previously noted, Greitens received a nearly $2 million contribution from a super PAC that won’t have to reveal its donors until October. He has also been criticized for refusing to return a donation from a venture capitalist who was later accused of sexual abuse. Greitens will face Democrat Chris Koster, the state’s attorney general, in November.