Dark Money ’14: We Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet

Anyone conducting a comparison of fundraising for the 2014 cycle, as I did a couple days ago (quoting Charlie Cook as suggesting Democrats had an advantage in Senate races) should issue a disclaimer that there’s a lot of time left in the cycle and plenty of precedent for heavy deployment of “dark money” (groups that as certified non-profits don’t have to disclose donors) expenditures, especially by those backing Republican candidates. MoJo’s Andy Kroll has some disturbing estimates of the mud in the pipeline:

As the Center for Responsive Politics’ Robert Maguire notes, almost $7 million had been dropped by Labor Day in 2010. But by the end of that election season, dark-money spending had spiked to $130 million. That trend repeated in 2012: In late August of that year, dark-money spending clocked in at $51 million. Fast forward to Election Day and the total ballooned to more than $300 million….

This cycle is not a presidential year, but with the US Senate up for grabs, dark-money spending could surpass the record-setting amount of 2012. “If the rate of spending from previous cycles continues,” Maguire writes, “the totals could reach upwards of $730 million or—if the rate seen in the last midterm holds—edge close to $1 billion.”

Yet Republicans are still squawking that the IRS squelched conservative 501(c) “social welfare” designations. If that’s so, it’s hard to imagine the flood of untraceable money we’d be dealing with.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.