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New Democracy Reform Bill Is Troubling Dark Money Donors

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Earlier this month, House Democrats passed a sweeping bill to reform American Democracy, HR1: The For the People Act. This massive, lofty piece of legislation would establish nationwide automatic voter registration, curb gerrymandering by requiring independent commissions, and even require sitting presidents and presidential candidates to release 10 years of tax returns. The bill would also attempt to reduce the influence of big money in politics by requiring dark money groups to disclose their donors.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has unsurprisingly been leading the resistance against this extremely anti-corruption bill, dismissing it as a “radical, half-baked socialist proposal,” and calling it the “Democratic Politician Protection Act.” However, attempting to curb dark money influence would not just be a shot at the engine block of conservative causes: Liberal groups also have their hands dirtied by origin-less funding.

Conservative groups have spent approximately $763.2 million in undisclosed funds over the past decade, while liberal groups have spent approximately $235.8 million. However, reflecting a significant disparity in fundraising, Democrats have been raking in the dark money as of late. In the 2018 midterms, liberals received almost double the amount of untraceable cash as conservatives.

HR1 would require dark money groups to reveal their donors, social networks to disclose the backers of political ads, and even attempt to publicly finance campaigns by having the federal government match small-dollar donations. This would be achieved by matching each dollar a candidate raised from small donations of public money for all Congressional and Presidential candidates, capped at $200. This measure would create an incentive to level the playing field between small-dollar donors and wealthy campaign backers.

“Unfortunately, Democrats and Republicans alike have long been beholden to big money in politics, blocking meaningful reform and benefitting from weak enforcement by the FEC,” Paul S. Ryan of Common Cause told Mother Jones. However, Ryan qualified his statement, pushing back against the idea that HR1 would only throttle Republican dollars: “Sen. McConnell’s not fooling anyone with his self-serving rhetoric. America knows he’s only protecting his fat-cat friends.”

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