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Democrats Now Dominate Dark Money Spending. They Still Want To End It.

Democrats are pushing a sweeping package of voting rights, campaign finance and ethics reforms as their top legislative priority in 2021. One of the pieces of the bill is a section requiring independent political groups that currently don’t have to disclose their donors ― whose donations are known as “dark money” ― to finally do so. 

This provision, previously known as the DISCLOSE Act, has been a major part of Democrats’ campaign finance reform agenda for years. But one major thing has changed since 2010, when Republicans dominated dark money spending: Today, it’s Democrats.

Democratic Party-aligned dark money groups ― nonprofits that are not required to disclose their donors ― spent more than $514 million on the 2020 elections, according to a review of FEC records by the Center for Responsive Politics. That compared to around $200 million by Republican Party-allied groups.

The totals reported by the Center for Responsive Politics include both independent expenditures made by dark money groups and contributions from dark money groups to super PACs, which do have to report their donors.

The Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision legalized unlimited corporate, labor and individual political spending on third-party electoral efforts. This created an unintended disclosure gap by allowing nonprofit groups that accept corporate donations and do not disclose their donors to spend money on election campaigns.

The disclosure of political donations plays a central role in the U.S. campaign finance regulation system. That system favors disclosure, as citizens should be able to know who could be influencing their elected representatives and because donations carry the possibility of corruption and the appearance of corruption. The Citizens United decision, penned by then-Justice Anthony Kennedy, even included an endorsement of disclosure as it opened the door to dark money.

But Congress failed to pass the DISCLOSE Act to close that door. The bill fell one vote short of clearing a Republican filibuster in 2010.

"Perhaps this slime machine can be a bipartisan concern," Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) told his colleagues in reference t



“Perhaps this slime machine can be a bipartisan concern,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) told his colleagues in reference to dark money spending on elections.

The shift in dark money dominance from Republicans to Democrats began in the 2018 election cycle. This marked a major change after Republican dark money groups outspent Democratic groups 4-1 in the 2016 election.

Democrats created an entire ecosystem of dark money groups in order to take the lead away from Republicans in this field of campaign spending. The major Democratic Party super PACs associated with different offices each launched their own dark money arms. 

For example, Priorities USA Action, which focuses on presidential races, launched Priorities USA; the House Majority PAC opened House Majority Forward; and the Senate Majority PAC launched Majority Forward PAC. These three dark money groups each spent tens of millions on the 2020 election.

They were joined by new dark money hubs that distributed undisclosed funds to super PACs to spend on election campaigns. The largest of these, Sixteen Thirty Fund and Future Forward USA Action, contributed $61 million apiece to super PACs that spent that money on the 2020 election.

And despite this newfound dominance, Democrats are still looking to pass the DISCLOSE Act — now part of the voting, finance and ethics-focused For The People Act — and end dark money spending on elections.

“The Sixteen Thirty Fund unequivocally supports the For The People Act and its historic provisions to strengthen our democracy by expanding voting rights, enhancing ethics rules, and reforming campaign finance regulations,” Amy Kurtz, executive director of the Sixteen Thirty Fund, said in a statement to HuffPost.

The bill has already passed the House on a nearly party-line vote (one Democrat voted no). Senate Democrats formally introduced the Senate version of the bill on Wednesday with all but Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) signed on as co-sponsors.

The topic of Democratic dark money spending came up in a March 10 Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing on dark money in judicial appointment campaigns. Subcommittee chairman Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), previously the lead sponsor of the Senate DISCLOSE Act, sponsored the hearing.

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) noted the increasing dominance of Democratic dark money spending. He remarked that he faced tens of millions of dollars in dark money spending that aimed “to beat me into the ground.”

“All the people thundering about dark money are getting elected with it,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said.

But Whitehouse noted that the DISCLOSE Act, embedded in the For The People Act, would require both Democratic and Republican groups to disclose their donors.

“Now, Republican colleagues have faced massive attacks leveled through Democratic front groups,” Whitehouse said. “So perhaps this slime machine can be a bipartisan concern.”

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article misstated Amy Kurtz’s last name as Katz.

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Politics

Trump To Launch His Own Social Media Platform, Adviser Says

Former President Donald Trump, who remains blacklisted from numerous social media sites, is planning to launch his own social media platform in the coming months, one of his advisers said Sunday.

“This is something that I think will be the hottest ticket in social media,” Jason Miller, senior adviser for Trump’s 2020 campaign, said on Fox News’ “MediaBuzz.”

Miller predicted the platform would draw in “tens of millions of people” and that it would launch in two or three months.

“It’s going to completely redefine the game and everybody is going to be waiting and watching to see what exactly President Trump does. But it will be his own platform,” Miller said.

Former President Donald Trump, seen in February, is planning to launch his own social media platform, one of his adviser



Former President Donald Trump, seen in February, is planning to launch his own social media platform, one of his advisers said Sunday.

Trump was permanently banned from Twitter following his incitement of the deadly Jan. 6 riots at the U.S Capitol, which left at least five people dead. He has been banned indefinitely from Facebook and Instagram and suspended indefinitely from YouTube.

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki said in an interview earlier this month that her platform may lift his suspension if the threat of “real-world violence” decreases, but that may not happen anytime soon.

“It’s pretty clear that right now where we stand, that there still is that elevated risk of violence,” she said.

News of Trump’s potential platform launch comes as a top federal prosecutor, who led the Justice Department’s probe into the deadly insurrection until last week, said Sunday that Trump remains under investigation for his role in the violence.

“It’s unequivocal that Trump was the magnet that brought the people to D.C. on the 6th,” Michael Sherwin, who stayed in his role as lead investigator through the presidential transition, said in an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes.” “Now the question is, is he criminally culpable for everything that happened during the siege, during the breach?”

He added: “We have people looking at everything.”

Hundreds of people have been arrested for their role in the riots on a range of charges. Evidence collected by investigators is “trending towards” sedition charges, Sherwin said.

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Politics

Rep. Mo Brooks, an Important Figure in Trump’s Insurrection, Is Running For a Senate Seat

Donald Trump did plenty to incite an insurrection on the US Capitol on January 6th. But that doesn’t mean that he didn’t have help. The former President’s biggest allies in the Senate were Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley.

Trump’s top enabler in the House of Representatives was Alabama congressman Mo Brooks. And Brooks is betting that the Trump support will propel him to a seat in the Senate.

Brooks said on Monday, “Today, lest there be any doubt, I announce my candidate for the United States Senate from the great state of Alabama.”

Back in January, Brooks was using fiery language to help Trump’s big lie. He said on the day of the insurrection, “Our Republic’s election system…is under attack. In 2020 America suffered the worst voter fraud and election theft in history. And all of America would know that if the news media wasn’t suppressing the truth as they’re doing.”

And it looks like Brook’s has Trump’s support. The former President dispatched aide Jason Miller to be there for Brooks’s announcement. Miller told the assembled crowd:

“Nobody over the last four years has had President Trump’s back more than Mo Brooks. But now, I need you to have his back. I need you to have Mo’s back. Your vote for Mo Brooks will allow him to carry on the America First Agenda. The fight to save America and to save our country, our constitution and our liberty begins right here in Alabama and it begins right here with your support for Mo Brooks.”

Todd Neikirk is a New Jersey based politics and technology writer. His work has been featured in psfk.com, foxsports.com and hillreporter.com. He enjoys sports, politics, comic books and spending time at the shore with his family.

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Politics

Re: Largest Teachers’ Union ‘Concerned’ That New CDC Social-Distancing Rules Aren’t Justified by Science

(DONGSEON_KIM/Getty Images)

Philip Klein noted a few days ago that the nation’s largest teachers’ union, the National Education Association, urges “the CDC to provide far more detail about the rationale for the change from six feet to three feet for students in classrooms” because they “are concerned that the CDC has changed one of the basic rules for how to ensure school safety without demonstrating certainty that the change is justified by the science.”

Like Klein, I thought the move was predictable. But I am also interested in the union’ apparent commitment to ensuring that all rules are solidly based in science. As it happens, this latest expression of commitment to the science may itself be poorly grounded in science. For evidence, look to none other than the New York Times, which delved into the origin and validity of the six-foot rule that unions are so attached to now. What the NYT reports is interesting:

The origin of the six-foot distancing recommendation is something of a mystery. “It’s almost like it was pulled out of thin air,” said Linsey Marr, an expert on viral transmission at Virginia Tech University.

When the virus first emerged, many experts believed that it was transmitted primarily through large respiratory droplets, which are relatively heavy. Old scientific studies, some dating back more than a century, suggested that these droplets tend not to travel more than three to six feet. This observation, as well as an abundance of caution, may have spurred the C.D.C. to make its six-foot suggestion, Dr. Marr said.

But that recommendation was not universal. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends three to six feet of social distancing in schools, but the World Health Organization recommends just one meter, or 3.3 feet.

The whole piece is worth reading.

Again, the six-foot rule may have never been the golden scientific rule these union representatives make it out to be. But it certainly has become all the more hard to justify in the face of the mental health and educational damages that virtual learning has caused. That they would drag their feet in moving closer to bringing kids back to school is sad.

Veronique de Rugy is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

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Politics

Chuck Todd And Pals Very Distracted By Totally Real, Non-Imaginary ‘Border Crisis’

The Democratic Party passed a massive COVID relief bill and the Biden Administration has done much to increase the quantity of vaccines available and improve the logistics for getting that done. Getting people vaccinated was such a priority in the media that Chuck Todd, before Joe Biden was inaugurated, declared his presidency would be failure if they didn’t meet his goal of vaccinating 100 million people in 100 days.

And he did it! On day 59!

Obviously the news media will now declare job well done and report on important things.

Just kidding!


The GOP spent the better part of a week trying to drum “border crisis” up into a real crisis, and the Sunday shows were there to chase the false premise like cats with laser pointers. While every Sunday show was bad, Chuck Todd really took the prize (although ABC’s “This Week” was close with its “border roundtable”).

Todd began “Meet The Press” with an intro that can only be described as the Zack Snyder version of “Both Sides” (overly long, completely bombastic and ultimately a waste of time).

Todd, in the first six minutes of the show, managed to outline the difference between the parties on immigration:

TODD: Look, conservatives want nothing less than a big wall and some stricter enforcement of the border. Progressives want nothing less than humane treatment for migrants fleeing violence, wherever it is, and a path to citizenship for those that are already here.

Then he pointed out the actual things Americans are focused on:

TODD: Americans largely approve of Mr. Biden’s young presidency, and he wants to focus on vaccinations, COVID relief, infrastructure, voting rights, racial inequities and renewing America’s image at home and abroad.

Then he confessed that news organizations are just gonna help the GOP manufacture its fake border crisis:

TODD: But he can’t control the news cycle. Just last week an intelligence report reminded us of the threat from domestic terror groups Mr. Biden must confront, particularly after January 6th. Events and politics have a way of applying their own pressure points, and right now, that pressure is pointed directly at our southern border.

Is it, though? Did the domestic terrorist insurrectionists’ actions on January 6 really make “border crisis” into a thing?

Todd unintentionally demonstrated what GOP bullshit this is, playing clips of Mitch McConnell, Rick Scott, Kevin McCarthy and John Kennedy basically repeating the word “crisis,” so idiots like Chuck Todd could have their Pavlovian response.

Todd followed that utter waste of time with a panel on anti-Asian violence and racism. See if you can spot the problem:

And that is why Twitter started calling for Chuck Todd to be fired. This time.

Before we move on, let’s marvel at an actual qualified journalist for NBC News punching back on the narrative of a “border crisis,” while also showing how to handle someone outright lying to their face.

Could Mehdi Hasan host “Meet The Press” from now on? In one fell swoop, he tore down seven days of GOP lies, using actual facts. Kinda hard to say the “border is wide open” when 72 percent of migrants apprehended were expelled straight away. Especially when your source is the same Customs and Border Patrol the GOP incessantly praises.

On CNN’s “State of The Union”, host Dana Bash interviewed Arkansas GOP governor Asa Hutchinson, who admitted Arkansas’s new draconian abortion law is unconstitutional on purpose:

HUTCHINSON: Yes, that was the whole design of the law.
It is not constitutional under Supreme Court cases right now. And I did prefer a rape and incest exception. I didn’t get a vote on that. And so I signed it because it is a direct challenge to Roe vs. Wade. That was the intent of it.
I think there’s a very narrow chance that the Supreme Court will accept that case, but we will see. And, again, I would prefer — it’s been my historic position that the three exceptions would be rape, incest and the life of the mother.
But this is a direct challenge to Roe vs. Wade. And that’s the intent of the legislation.

This is absolutely the GOP’s game on abortion right now, though it’s wild to hear Hutchinson just say it out loud. They’re throwing any insane case they can at SCOTUS in hopes the justices rammed onto the court by Trump and Mitch McConnell will gut Roe for them. You’d think that goes against the spirit of our justice system, but when have Republicans worried about that?

Have a week!

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Politics

Morrison is now snared in his own lies and sordid cover-up

In a day of political catastrophes for a sordid government, the head of Prime Minister and Cabinet delivered hammer blows to the credibility of the prime minister and himself.

Phil Gaetjens and Scott Morrison (Images: AAP)

It’s unusual for a political cover-up to fall apart so swiftly. More unusual that it combines with a revelation a prime minister had misled Parliament. Rarer still that it was the prime minister’s hand-picked chief bureaucrat who drew attention to it. Probably unprecedented that it happened the day a government lost complete control on a long-running issue.

A policy disaster involving superannuation getting flung in the bin was just small change. A staffer getting sacked for a “solo sex act” on a female MP’s desk was barely mentioned in dispatches.

Yesterday rivals the worst days of the Gillard and Abbott governments for sheer, unadulterated political disaster. And at the centre of it all is Scott Morrison, a grubby non-leader who is now trapped in a political swamp of his own creation. And what a fetid swamp it is. The stench emanating from this outfit, and its so-called leader, is overpowering.

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Politics

There are so few female principals of private boys’ schools that we counted them on one finger

The nature of all-boys’ schools needs to be disrupted if we want to change Australia’s culture of misogyny and sexual violence.

St Kevin’s principal Deborah Barker (Image: Instagram)

Last week, Archbishop of Brisbane Mark Coleridge penned this tweet: “A Church which says we can’t ordain women is equally obliged to ask how we might include women in leadership…’’

Never has that need been greater. The dearth of female leaders in our all-boys schools — both in the Catholic system and the wider independent sector — is a traditional misogyny that must be addressed. And it must be addressed now, to help forge a change in a culture which has broken the spirits and futures of too many young women.

Coleridge, a forward thinker despite his Church not always being that way, is an alumnus of St Kevin’s College, the exclusive Catholic private boys school in Toorak, Melbourne. This is the school, run by Edmund Rice Education Australia (EREA), that has been mired in controversy in recent times, including an incident where a swag of male students were filmed on a tram chanting filth about women.

Its new principal Deborah Barker was appointed on the back of that scandal; the first woman to hold the position in the school’s 100-plus year history. She was seen as part of the antidote to a culture that had seriously damaged the St Kevin’s brand. Not that the school or EREA has ever trumpeted that fact. Indeed, a search of the school’s website shows it’s not an appointment the school is really acknowledging.

Barker was announced last year, but still does not even appear listed as the school principal; it’s the acting deputy principal who features at the top of the St Kevin’s leadership team tree — though the school confirmed she is the head when contacted via phone.

No doubt exists that St Kevin’s needs the strong influence of a talented female educator to drive cultural change. But what we saw there tells a story of other boys’ schools across the nation, where deep-seated sexism and misogyny is prompting thousands of schoolgirls to come forward with stories of sexual abuse, harassment and rape.

Barker appears to be the only female head of a significant private or faith-based all-boys school in Australia. The only one. (And if you can think of another outside of the state sector, where there are a handful, please let me know!)

On the other hand, a male head of an all-girls’ school is not out of the ordinary. Sometimes it’s even sought. Indeed, of all the all-girls’ schools in Australia, there are about 16 male principals out of 157 across state, Catholic and private institutions.

Many girls’ schools also have several males as part of their leadership team, and actively seek male influences inside the classroom and in extra-curricular activities ranging from sport to public speaking.

That’s because it is understood that our teenagers gain from having both female and male role models and perspectives. A girl’s education shouldn’t be delivered only by women, and a boys education shouldn’t be delivered only by men.

The lack of women in leadership positions needs to change, and it starts with curbing the influence of old boys’ networks whose stakeholder status is often prioritised. Our all-boys’ schools need to look more to the future and less to the past.

You can see it in the subjects offered, and in the schools’ wealth base, and in the donations and bequests of families. You can see it right up at the top, in the principal’s office.

Every industry has faced disruption in recent years — traditional all-boys’ schools, built on historical networks and outdated culture, need to face their own disruption.

That doesn’t mean a gender-aware man can’t be an excellent all-boys’ school leader, but surely it means a woman can do the same job — if they were just given the chance.

Will more women in leadership positions fix the cultural problem in all-boys’ schools? Let us know your thoughts by writing to [email protected]. Please include your full name to be considered for publication in Crikey’s Your Say section.

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Politics

Whatever happened to Pastor Scott — a man who wanted to truly heal a nation?

Scott Morrison once offered a salve to a nation sickened by revelations of institutional abuse. What happened?

Scott Morrison at his church in Sutherland (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)Scott Morrison at his church in Sutherland (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)
Scott Morrison at his church in Sutherland (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

When it comes to claims of sexual assault from within government ranks, Scott Morrison really should take advice from Scott Morrison.

That’s the Scott Morrison, at least, who delivered a soaring address to Parliament by way of a national apology to survivors of institutional abuse.

In late 2018, the newly elevated Morrison stepped into a role to which, at least on the day, he seemed born: offering salve and succour to a nation sickened by the years-long revelations of institutional abuse laid bare by the McClellan royal commission. With a tone and bearing befitting the nation’s pastor-in-chief, Morrison deployed a soaring rhetoric which drew deep on the wells of compassion and understanding.

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Politics

Reef cash splash: another COVID scheme looks suspiciously like corporate welfare

Exactly how will the Great Barrier Reef — and regional workers — benefit from the $3.2m handout? That remains a mystery.

Experience Co and Tourism Australia chair Bob East (Image: AAP/Bianca De Marchi)

The owner of China’s biggest nickel mine and a company chaired by the head of Tourism Australia are among the beneficiaries of a $3.2 million scheme to “monitor” the Great Barrier Reef during the COVID-caused tourism slump.

Like much of the government’s pandemic support spending, it’s not entirely clear what is being asked of them and 15 other tourist operators who were given funding.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s website says the money is being used to pay tourism operators to monitor the health of the reef. But there is little detail about how much monitoring they have to do and how their performance will be measured.

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Politics

Democrats Now Dominate Dark Money Spending. They Still Want To End It.

Democrats are pushing a sweeping package of voting rights, campaign finance and ethics reforms as their top legislative priority in 2021. One of the pieces of the bill is a section requiring independent political groups that currently don’t have to disclose their donors ― whose donations are known as “dark money” ― to finally do so. 

This provision, previously known as the DISCLOSE Act, has been a major part of Democrats’ campaign finance reform agenda for years. But one major thing has changed since 2010, when Republicans dominated dark money spending: Today, it’s Democrats.

Democratic Party-aligned dark money groups ― nonprofits that are not required to disclose their donors ― spent more than $514 million on the 2020 elections, according to a review of FEC records by the Center for Responsive Politics. That compared to around $200 million by Republican Party-allied groups.

The totals reported by the Center for Responsive Politics include both independent expenditures made by dark money groups and contributions from dark money groups to super PACs, which do have to report their donors.

The Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision legalized unlimited corporate, labor and individual political spending on third-party electoral efforts. This created an unintended disclosure gap by allowing nonprofit groups that accept corporate donations and do not disclose their donors to spend money on election campaigns.

The disclosure of political donations plays a central role in the U.S. campaign finance regulation system. That system favors disclosure, as citizens should be able to know who could be influencing their elected representatives and because donations carry the possibility of corruption and the appearance of corruption. The Citizens United decision, penned by then-Justice Anthony Kennedy, even included an endorsement of disclosure as it opened the door to dark money.

But Congress failed to pass the DISCLOSE Act to close that door. The bill fell one vote short of clearing a Republican filibuster in 2010.

"Perhaps this slime machine can be a bipartisan concern," Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) told his colleagues in reference t



“Perhaps this slime machine can be a bipartisan concern,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) told his colleagues in reference to dark money spending on elections.

The shift in dark money dominance from Republicans to Democrats began in the 2018 election cycle. This marked a major change after Republican dark money groups outspent Democratic groups 4-1 in the 2016 election.

Democrats created an entire ecosystem of dark money groups in order to take the lead away from Republicans in this field of campaign spending. The major Democratic Party super PACs associated with different offices each launched their own dark money arms. 

For example, Priorities USA Action, which focuses on presidential races, launched Priorities USA; the House Majority PAC opened House Majority Forward; and the Senate Majority PAC launched Majority Forward PAC. These three dark money groups each spent tens of millions on the 2020 election.

They were joined by new dark money hubs that distributed undisclosed funds to super PACs to spend on election campaigns. The largest of these, Sixteen Thirty Fund and Future Forward USA Action, contributed $61 million apiece to super PACs that spent that money on the 2020 election.

And despite this newfound dominance, Democrats are still looking to pass the DISCLOSE Act — now part of the voting, finance and ethics-focused For The People Act — and end dark money spending on elections.

“The Sixteen Thirty Fund unequivocally supports the For The People Act and its historic provisions to strengthen our democracy by expanding voting rights, enhancing ethics rules, and reforming campaign finance regulations,” Amy Kurtz, executive director of the Sixteen Thirty Fund, said in a statement to HuffPost.

The bill has already passed the House on a nearly party-line vote (one Democrat voted no). Senate Democrats formally introduced the Senate version of the bill on Wednesday with all but Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) signed on as co-sponsors.

The topic of Democratic dark money spending came up in a March 10 Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing on dark money in judicial appointment campaigns. Subcommittee chairman Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), previously the lead sponsor of the Senate DISCLOSE Act, sponsored the hearing.

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) noted the increasing dominance of Democratic dark money spending. He remarked that he faced tens of millions of dollars in dark money spending that aimed “to beat me into the ground.”

“All the people thundering about dark money are getting elected with it,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said.

But Whitehouse noted that the DISCLOSE Act, embedded in the For The People Act, would require both Democratic and Republican groups to disclose their donors.

“Now, Republican colleagues have faced massive attacks leveled through Democratic front groups,” Whitehouse said. “So perhaps this slime machine can be a bipartisan concern.”

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article misstated Amy Kurtz’s last name as Katz.