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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

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Opponents of latest AR state tax cuts say they benefit wealthy Arkansans; Julian Assange agrees to a plea deal that would allow him to avoid imprisonment in US; Tech-based carbon-capture projects make headway in local government; NV nonprofit calls Biden's student debt initiatives economic justice.

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Charges against fake electors in Nevada are dismissed, Milwaukee officials get ready to expect the unexpected at the RNC convention, and the Justice Department says Alaska is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.

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A Minnesota town claims the oldest rural Pride Festival while rural educators say they need support to teach kids social issues, rural businesses can suffer when dollar stores come to town and prairie states like South Dakota are getting help to protect grasslands.

'Dark money' floods 2024 elections

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Monday, March 25, 2024   

Undisclosed funding, or "dark money," is pumping into the 2024 election cycle.

Political spending by donors who stay hidden is reaching record highs, according to a report by OpenSecrets.

Author Anna Massoglia - the editorial and investigations manager at Open Secrets - said dark money might be coming from shadowy shell companies or non-profits, and often funds misleading attack ads against candidates from either party.

"When you have dark-money groups fueling this spending," said Massoglia, "the voter may not know what interest the secret donors behind that have in getting a specific candidate elected, a ballot measure passed or any other policy issue."

In 2022, OpenSecrets found that the Conservative Americans PAC spent more than $2.4 million in GOP primary races for U.S. House seats in Missouri, Tennessee and Arizona.

They discovered the super PAC was bankrolled by undisclosed American Economic Freedom Alliance and American Prosperity Alliance support prior to the votes.

Supporters of dark money donations argue they are a form of free speech, and in fact courts have often found that political donations are protected by the First Amendment.

Campaign watchdogs argue in return that even if donations are a form of protected speech, nothing stops the government from requiring full disclosure of who the donations are coming from - and without that, campaign advertising becomes inherently deceptive.

Massoglia says it really varies from one state to the next, in terms of which party and which side of the aisle is benefiting more. And, the patchwork of limits and disclosure rules vary greatly across the states.

"In some states, you can actually have 501(c)(4) dark-money groups or shell companies contribute directly to candidates' campaigns," said Massoglia, "which is something that's not allowed at the federal level. They're only allowed to spend in support of the candidate."

Massoglia emphasized that while dark money can come from various sources, it often comes from one type.

She said 501(c)(4) nonprofits are supposed to exist for social welfare purposes, but due to few restrictions on their spending they are able to spend practically unlimited sums on elections without ever disclosing their donors.




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