In the 2020 election, “dark money” was spent overwhelmingly to elect Democrats, not Republicans. Millions of dollars were spent to elect Democrats by progressive groups that were required by the tax laws to be “nonpartisan.” The New York Times reports:
15 of the most politically active nonprofit organizations that generally align with the Democratic Party spent more than $1.5 billion in 2020 — compared to roughly $900 million spent by a comparable sample of 15 of the most politically active groups aligned with the G.O.P.
A single, cryptically named entity that has served as a clearinghouse of undisclosed cash for the left, the Sixteen Thirty Fund, received mystery donations as large as $50 million and disseminated grants to more than 200 groups, while spending a total of $410 million in 2020 — more than the Democratic National Committee itself…
Sixteen Thirty is part of a broader network of progressive nonprofits that donors used to fill specific spaces on the political chessboard.
The groups in the network, which also included Hopewell Fund, New Venture Fund, North Fund and Windward Fund, were administered by a for-profit consulting firm called Arabella Advisors. Taken together, the Arabella network spent a total of nearly $1.2 billion in 2020, including paying Arabella a combined $46.6 million in 2020 in management fees, according to the funds’ tax filings.
“Dark money” groups don’t have to report their donors’ identity. That’s why it’s called “dark money.”
As John Sexton notes, “Big donors can make a contribution of $10 million” to a dark money group, and yet, they don’t have to report who the donor was. Sexton says it’s likely that “some of this cash is coming from left-leaning billionaires like George Soros and Pierre Omidyar, the founder of eBay. The tax structure of these groups requires them to be non-partisan, but the Times suggests that’s not how things work in practice.” The Times reports:
A Biden-backing nonprofit, Future Forward USA Action, with ties to Silicon Valley billionaires, raised $150 million in 2020 and transferred more than $60 million to an affiliated super PAC, while directly spending nearly $25 million on TV ads, almost $2.6 million on polling and analytics and $639,000 on focus groups, federal records show.
That group’s top data scientist, David Shor, has emerged as a leading Democratic strategist. “I try to elect Democrats,” his Twitter bio reads. Tax records show that he worked 35 hours a week in 2020 for the nonprofit, whose primary purpose is not supposed to be partisan.
The winner of the election is not always the candidate who spends the most money. In 2016, the Trump campaign spent less than half of what the Clinton campaign spent, but Trump still won the presidential election.
In the 2021 Virginia election, Democrats spent about twice as much as Republicans in state legislative races, but still lost control of the house of the legislature that was up for election, the House of Delegates. Republican Glenn Youngkin won the Virginia gubernatorial election despite being slightly outspent by his Democratic rival, Terry McAuliffe.