Biden campaign received $145M ‘dark money’ donations: report
President Joe Biden‘s 2020 presidential campaign was aided by $145 million in “dark money” donations to outside groups backing him, according to a Saturday report from Bloomberg News. All this, despite comments from Biden, as well as Democrats criticizing such aspects of campaign finance.
According to the Bloomberg report, anonymous donors gave about $145 million to outside groups advocating for Biden’s campaign, which is miles ahead of the $28.4 million spent on behalf of then-President Donald Trump.
The previous record-holder was 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who had $113 million in dark money donations spent promoting his failed candidacy.
Priorities USA Action Fund for example, one of the highest-profile Democratic super PACs backing Biden, used $26 million in funds originally donated to its nonprofit arm, called Priorities USA, to support the then-candidate, according to Bloomberg. The money’s donors do not need to be disclosed.
During his 2020 campaign, Biden raised a record-breaking $1.5 billion, however, he could only accept donations of at most $2,800 from individual donors under FEC rules. Of that staggering number, $318.6 million of which came from donors who gave less than $200 each, whereas the other money originated from donors who gave over $825,000, with that money split between Biden’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee, according to Fox News.
Those critical of dark money, which hides the source of the funds, have argued that voters ought to know who’s bankrolling political campaigns and advertisements. The Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan group, has called it a “serious threat to our democracy,” and Issue One, another nonpartisan group that aims to reduce the influence of money in politics, has called it “the most toxic force in politics,” per Fox News.
While Democrats have introduced legislation in the past to bring down the hammer on anonymous donations, they decided to welcome dark money donations themselves as they fought till the bitter end to oust Trump out of the Oval Office.
“We weren’t going to unilaterally disarm against Trump and the right-wing forces that enabled him,” Guy Cecil, the chairman of Priorities USA, told Bloomberg.
This Bloomberg report comes as one of the first bills the new Senate will vote on is the “For the People Act,” introduced by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and is the Senate equivalent of the House act of the same name. The act seeks to require that all political organizations disclose their donors, on top of wanting to implement automatic voter registration and expand same-day voter registration across the country.
“The 2020 election underscored the need for comprehensive, structural democracy reform,” Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), who led the charge with the legislation’s House version, said in a statement on his website. “Americans across the country were forced to overcome rampant voter suppression, gerrymandering and a torrent of special-interest dark money just to exercise their vote and their voice in our democracy.”
Biden, as part of his plan to reform government, called for prohibiting certain kinds of nonprofits from spending money in elections and mandating that any organization that spends more than $10,000 on federal elections to register with the Federal Election Committee (FEC) and publicly name its donors, per Fox News. Priorities USA, under such rules, would have been forced to disclose its donors.
Democrats got around $326 million in dark money donations during this past election cycle, the Center for Responsive Politics says, which is more than two-times bigger than the $148 million collected by the GOP, per Fox News. However, the GOP has historically outplayed Democrats when it comes to dark money.
You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.