Senator Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) says she supports H.R. 1, the sweeping proposal to bring state elections under federal government control, because “it’s about is preventing billionaires from buying elections and getting dark money out of politics.” However, she may want to look at her own campaign.
End Citizens United and the Let America Vote Action Fund president Tiffany Muller quickly jumped to Hassan’s defense in a spat with New Hampshire’s Democratic Secretary of State Bill Gardner. He has criticized H.R. 1 as an “egregious overreach of federal authority that flagrantly ignores or diminishes the provisions of our state constitution. As NHJournal has reported, Gardner believes H.R. 1 opens the door for Democrats to end New Hampshire’s First in the Nation presidential primary status.
Muller accused the nation’s longest-serving secretary of state of peddling in “misinformation.”
“Nothing in the For the People Act addresses or threatens New Hampshire’s presidential primary schedule. Period,” Muller said in a statement. “To suggest otherwise is just plain false.”
However, it should be noted H.R. 1 would advance the same goals Muller and End Citizens United advocate.
End Citizens United was formed after the landmark Citizens United case at the Supreme Court, which deregulated limits on outside spending in elections. According to its mission statement, the group’s goal is “To fix our democracy by getting big money out of politics and protecting the right to vote,”
For a group that claims to put an end to big money in elections, they spend a lot of money working to elect Democrats. And according to experts, a lot of it is dark money.
501c4 nonprofits, like the End Citizens United Action Fund, are under no legal obligation to report their donors to the Federal Election Commission. Even when they spend money influencing elections, which is why they are referred to as “dark money organizations.”
End Citizens United’s Political Action Committee spent more than $2.1 million in outside funding working in 2016 to elect then-Gov. Hassan to the U.S. Senate. The vast majority of that spending spent on negative campaign ads attacking then-Sen. Kelly Ayotte. Altogether, outside groups spent nearly $60 million to unseat Ayotte.
According to OpenSecrets, a nonpartisan research group that tracks money in elections, 2020’s cycle saw at least $1 billion in dark money spending. The vast majority of that money went to Democrats, though the full extent of the spending is untraceable.
In Joe Biden’s campaign for the White House, at least $145 million in dark money was spent on his behalf, far more than the $28 million that Donald Trump received.
And an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics for CNN found “more than $320 million of so-called ‘dark money’ helped boost Democrats in the White House and congressional races — more than double the anonymous dollars that aided Republicans” in 2020.
“After 2018 and especially after 2020, we have seen more than ever the hypocrisy that exists on the left. Liberal dark money outspent conservative dark money by five to one margin in 2020,” Caitlin Sutherland, Executive Director of Americans for Public Trust, told the NHJournal. “It’s ironic that the party that decries money in politics is the one ultimately benefiting from all the money in politics,”
“More than that, they now have individuals in the White House who worked for the same dark money groups that got Joe Biden elected in the first place. So yes, it is the epitome of hypocrisy,” said Sutherland, referring to key staffers like White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, who previously worked for the dark money group Demand Justice.
This has become the mantra of modern Democratic candidates and activist organizations, decrying big money in politics, while benefiting from it.
In Maine’s 2020 Senate race, Democrat Sara Gideon proudly proclaimed, “I am not taking a dime in corporate PAC money during this campaign because it will always be clear who I’m working for in the U.S. Senate” in a TV ad early in her campaign. Gideon made the pledge a pillar of her stump speech. Similar pledges were also made by Democratic Sens. John Hickenlooper and Mark Kelly while campaigning.
What Gideon, Hickenlooper, and Kelly didn’t mention was the money they took from leadership PACs, which do accept money from corporations.
For example, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s Impact PAC and Sen. Martin Heinrich’s Lobo PAC, which are both funded by corporate PACs, each gave Gideon’s campaign $10,000. They gave similar amounts of funding for other insurgent Democrat candidates like Hickenlooper and Kelly, effectively funneling corporate PAC money to candidates who claimed they weren’t taking corporate PAC money.
End Citizens United doesn’t have a problem with that.
“Corporate lobbyists and c-suite executives decide where corporate PAC contributions go, and corporate PACs give money to gain access and influence in the halls of power in Washington,” said Patrick Burgwinkle, the group’s communications director. “Leadership PACs give money to help elect more Democrats or Republicans to Congress and the decision on who to donate to resides solely with the member of Congress affiliated with the leadership PAC.”
The Sixteen Thirty Fund, the top-spending Democrat-aligned dark money group in the 2020 election, similarly spent more than $61 million backing these same candidates and other Democrats.
Sixteen Thirty and Demand Justice are part of the massive Arabella Advisors network, which directs donors and nonprofit organizations on where to spend their money. The New York Times revealed that Arabella, and also groups like Sixteen Thirty Fund, are funded by Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss.
“The money that Sixteen Thirty Fund poured into elections last cycle was record-breaking, but the Arabella Advisors network moves roughly a half a billion dollars each year to liberal causes throughout its network,” said Sutherland. “That money ends up supporting Sara Gideon in Maine, supporting John Hickenlooper in Colorado.”
Using names like “Maine Momentum” and “Rocky Mountain Values,” Sixteen Thirty makes it appear that their operation is not part of a larger liberal push by a billionaire from Switzerland.
“They have disguised [their local entities] in a way to make it appear like these are grassroots groups, locally organized, political entities,” said Sutherland. “When you peel back the veil and you start to take a look at their finances, it just traces back to the dark money behemoth that is Arabella Advisors.”