This Week in Dark Money: Nov. 2, 2012

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We’re proud to collaborate with Mother Jones in sharing insightful journalism related to money and politics. We’ll be posting this weekly roundup every Friday. Share your thoughts about these must-read stories and always feel free to suggest your own in the comments section.

A quick look at the week that was in the world of political dark money


“My opinion, for what it’s worth, is that WTP was running a lot of these campaigns.”

— Julie Staeb, an investigator for the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices, referring to the possibility that nonprofit group Western Tradition Partnership illegally coordinated with Montana political candidates in 2008 and 2010. The investigation includes documents from the group that convicted felon Mark Siebel found in a meth house outside Denver in later 2010. Siebel claimed they were found by his friend in a stolen car; they were recently examined in a joint report by ProPublica and Frontline. WTP has since changed its name to American Tradition Partnership and is best known for its lawsuit that overturned Montana’s ban on corporate spending and definitively expanded Citizens United to apply to states’ campaign finance rules.



Citizens United helped Mitt Romney close President Obama’s fundraising edge, according to a new report from the Center for Public Integrity and Center for Responsive Politics, but the Obama campaign was still able to take advantage of reduced ad rates for campaigns and air more commercials since late April than the Romney campaign, Republican National Committee, and seven outside spending groups supporting the GOP combined. Among all outside spending (below), Romney was the beneficiary of more than $350 million of it; Obama was supported by about $100 million in outside funds.


$6 billion: The estimated total cost of the 2012 elections, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a record amount that would top the current record by $700 million. The presidential race was actually trailing 2008’s $2.8 billion by $200 million as of the end of October, but more than $500 million reported to the FEC by outside spending groups and nearly $3 billion spent on House and Senate races more than makes up for the difference.


Nate Silver projects the likelihood of President Obama winning Pennsylvania and Michigan at 95.5 percent and 98.4 percent, respectively, but the Koch-funded nonprofit Americans for Prosperity apparently still thinks Romney’s got a shot at winning them Tuesday. The group has doled out $3 million on a November ad buy in the two states. “I still believe in hope and change,” a voter says in one of the ads. “I just don’t think Obama’s the way to go for that.”Slate’s David Weigel, who points out that this ad has already been running in Pennsylvania since August, calls the new ad buy “a great headline” but “one of many that overstates what third party groups can do in the last stretch of this campaign.”


• Mitt Romney Would Be Toast Without This Man: Charlie Spies helps run the king of all super PACs — and he’s used it to keep Romney’s campaign alive.
• Video: The First Silent Political Ad: Listen up! This election spot has something to say…very, very quietly.
• Among American Tradition Partnership’s donors was an anti-union group with Colorado ties that gave the group $300,000. Center for Public Integrity
• The US Chamber of Commerce was the largest dark-money spender in 15 Congressional races this year. National Journal

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  • lkg

    Yesterday, I overheard a man on a cell phone telling another person that he getting paid $100 to show up at the polls on Election Day to represent a candidate. He was offering the same deal to the guy on the phone.. It makes me so angry to hear about buying busloads of “supporters” for rallies, buying “friends” on FB, buying “tweets” on twitter, buying “volunteers” to register only specific voters and tossing out the registrations for the other party, buying “endorsements”, PR firms, misleading Ads, etc.. That $$$ could have built a few bridges, paved a few roads, helped wounded vets, fed some starving children..

  • Patricia L. Ballard

    Sad message. As a designer, I will say you put info graphics to excellent use.

  • Rob Roy Foresman

    writing in 1829-1830, hoped there might be a way out of the calamity
    that would come when the fairly equal distribution of property had given
    way to a plutocracy on the one side and a property-less multitude on
    the other. He thought that the crisis would arrive in about a hundred
    years, about 1930-which was not a bad guess. Yet he hoped that the
    tendency to concentration of wealth might be ‘diminished and the
    permanency defeated by the equalizing tendency of the laws. In other
    words, Madison contemplated the use of government to provide an economic
    underwriting of the Republic by laws designed to control the
    concentration of wealth and to force a more equal distribution of
    wealth. For this, he admitted, experience had as yet provided no sure
    test by experiment. To accomplish the end so necessary to the
    maintenance of popular government, he concluded, would require ‘all the
    wisdom of the wisest patriots.'”–Charles A. Beard, taken from “The

  • Anonymous

    “Society is produced by our wants and, government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices.” So states Thomas Paine at the beginning of Common Sense.[1]

    Paine provides as example that a society begins when a small number of persons settle in an area separated from congenial surroundings. In this state of natural liberty, necessity due to differences in age, skills, intellect, and health would soon form the persons into a society. The reciprocal benefits would

    “supersede, and render the obligations of law and government unnecessary while they remained perfectly just to each other…but as nothing but Heaven is impregnable to vice, … the necessity (arises) of establishing some form of government to supply the defect of moral virtue.”

    Continue reading at

  • Early

    The plutocracy seems to be winning they the 1% have polarized most of america to one side or the other and we are fighting amongst ourselves which is what I believe the elite organized to divide and conquor. We the public cannot organize to counter act this inequality if the politics of this election has divided us. I want to think and believe Americans can pull themselves out of this, but what I have seen in this election causes me to lose hope.

  • jan

    I just hope that Bill stays with us after the election. I trust him more than anyone else.

  • Dave Sandersfeld

    If Politician really cared about USA future, All these billions of dollars should be invested in our grandchildrens education -we cut now!