Left-leaning groups have done an amazingly effective job of highlighting the role of conservative and libertarian “dark money” in the public sphere. Newspapers like the Washington Post and New York Times have eagerly amplified the findings, for example, of a student group, Transparent GMU, that raised issues about the influence of the infamous Koch Brothers over faculty hiring at George Mason University.
While groups like Transparent GMU and UnKoch My Campus makes life miserable for the Koch family and institutions it sponsors such as GMU’s Mercatus Center and Scalia School of Law, it has no counterpart on the right. No nonprofit/media axis exists to expose the machinations of left-wing funders on college campuses.
The influence exercised by the Kochs through the Mercatus Center ($63 million a year in revenue, according to its 2016 990 form) is widely known. But who has heard of GMU’s Center for Climate Change ($58 million in revenue, according to its 2014 990)? The Center played an important role in U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse’s RICO investigation into alleged oil company collusion and stonewalling on climate change. Only thanks to the research of Chris Horner at the American Enterprise Institute into the political economy of climate change has the Center’s role come partially to light. However, Horner can’t seem to excite the interest of Washington Post and New York Times into who is pulling the strings behind left-wing causes, so almost no one knows of it.
And, thus, left-leaning nonprofits, using dark money, have managed to convince many Americans that conservative/libertarians dominate the world of dark money. How ironic. But that may change. Conservatives are catching on.
According to the Wall Street Journal’s Kimberly Strassel, former Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican, has published a book, “Power Grab,” that documents how the Left dominates the world of dark money. Writes Strassel:
Mr. Chaffetz has been digging into nonprofits since his time as House Oversight Committee chairman, and the book details how powerful the liberal nonprofit sector has grown. It may surprise many Americans—those who read daily stories about conservative “influence”—that the likes of the NRA, Judicial Watch and the National Organization for Marriage barely rank by comparison to the assets and revenue of Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union or the Nature Conservancy.
These aren’t only big political players; they’re the biggest political players. In 2018 the nonprofit watchdog Capital Research Center analyzed grants handed out in the 2014 election year by six big foundations on the right (including the Bradley and Charles Koch foundations) versus six on the left (including the Open Society and Tides foundations). Liberal public-policy charities, organized under chapter 501(c)(3) of the tax code, bagged $7.4 billion of this foundation money in 2014. For conservative charities, the figure was a mere $2.2 billion. …
Mr. Chaffetz’s contribution is to refocus attention on the way liberal charities channel their huge funds into political work that benefits the Democratic Party. We’ve long known that some of them engage in nominally nonpartisan voter registration, conveniently only in places likely to yield Democratic votes. The Chaffetz book adds new data highlighting contracts between liberal charities and overt political organizations.
Let those numbers sink in. Liberals, $7.4 billion. Conservatives, $2.2 billion.
The Virginia Public Access Project tracks campaign contributions and lobbying expenditures in Virginia. Perhaps VPAP Executive Director David Poole can convince his financial backers to expand his writ to tracking the flow of dark money in the Old Dominion as well. Dark money dwarfs expenditures on campaign contributions and lobbying, and until we can track it, we can’t hope to fully understand the role of money in Virginia politics.There are currently no comments highlighted.