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January 28, 2016

'Dark Money' Dominating Ad Buys in 2016 Campaign Season

So-called dark money from nonprofits and other entities that are not required to reveal their financial supporters has accounted for nearly two-thirds of spending on political advertisements thus far in the election season, Bloomberg writes.

501(c)(4) "social welfare" groups, nonprofit trade associations, and limited-liability companies have spent $213 million on political ads since the start of 2015, compared to $114 million by official campaign bodies and super PACs, which are obligated to identify their donors, according to an analysis by Kantar Campaign Media Analysis Group.

Nonprofits, which are barred under current tax rules from spending a majority of their money on explicit electioneering, have been unprecedentedly active during the pre-primary period. Almost a quarter of "dark money" spending has funded ads that mention specific candidates for office. In the post-Citizens United climate, "political operatives know they can do whatever they want so long as they stay within certain boundaries," said Sheila Krumholz of the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign finance.