This election season, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is coming out ahead—as the number one dark money spender of 2014, watchdog Public Citizen revealed in a report released Wednesday.
"In a record year for dark money expenditures, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is leading the way," reads the report, entitled The Dark Side of Citizens United, which is based on data from the Center for Responsive Politics analyzed by Public Citizen's U.S. Chamber Watch. "The waves of non-disclosed money flooding elections threaten to disempower and discourage voters, making government less transparent and less accountable."
The term "dark money" refers to funds spent to influence elections by 501(c) groups such as the Chamber, which are not required to disclose the sources of their funds. The U.S. Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision opened the door to unprecedented outside spending to influence elections, and as Common Dreams previously reported, 2014 is breaking records in dark money spending on Senate races.
"When large corporations decide they want to get their own candidates into office but they don’t want to be seen doing it, they call the U.S. Chamber," said Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division, which houses U.S. Chamber Watch. "These politicians then push for anti-environmental, anti-consumer, and anti-health policies and priorities that hurt everyday Americans."
Among outside dark money organizations, the Chamber, which is a corporate lobbying group, is the top overall spender on the 2014 congressional elections: as of October 25, 2014, it had spent $31.8 million, with the runner up, Crossroads GPS, spending $23.5 million. In addition, the Chamber is the biggest dark money spender in over 80 percent of the contests is has sought to sway, the report reveals.
According to the Chamber's expenditure reports, it has poured money into eight of the 10 contests that have attracted the most outside money and 16 of the top-spending 20. This includes the North Carolina, Colorado, and Iowa Senate races.
Nearly 100 percent of the money the Chamber has spent has gone towards bolstering GOP candidates or opposing Democratic ones, with small amounts put towards opposing certain candidates in Republican primaries, "where the Chamber worked to oppose Tea Party Republicans and others who might not agree with it on issues like the government shutdown and bailouts," the report states.
"We know that the Chamber gets most of its money from just a handful of large donors," said Sam Jewler, communications officer for U.S. Chamber Watch and author of the report. "The policies its chosen candidates pursue will not represent Main Street, but will represent the agendas of a small number of very powerful companies that may prefer secretly buying influence over competing or innovating."