Money & Politics

This Week in Political Money: Regulators Won’t Be Cracking Down on Anonymous Corporate Spending Anytime Soon

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This Week in Political Money
SEC Chairman Mary Jo White appears before the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee on Capitol Hill June 14, 2016 in Washington, DC. The committee heard testimony regarding oversight of the US Securities and Exchange Commission. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

SEC Chairman Mary Jo White appears before the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee on Capitol Hill June 14, 2016 in Washington, DC. The committee heard testimony regarding oversight of the US Securities and Exchange Commission. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

We’ll be posting this roundup each week leading up to Election Day. Share your thoughts about these must-read stories and always feel free to suggest your own in the comments section.

For a moment there, it looked like a fight over corporate transparency might contribute to a government shutdown. But only for a moment.

As the Senate fought this week to cut a deal to keep the government funded, Democrats had two key demands about the contents of that must-pass bill. One was to help fund cleanup and relief efforts in Flint, Michigan. The other was to undo a rider Senate Republicans had slipped into last year’s funding bill that prevents the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) from requiring corporations to tell shareholders when they spend money to influence an election.

With the rise of dark money (i.e., anonymous political spending), this push by pro-transparency groups has become more urgent. But President Obama’s SEC head, Mary Jo White, has been slow to act on the issue, to the frustration of many liberals and good-government types. And just to be safe, Senate Republicans, headed by dark money enthusiast Mitch McConnell, inserted a provision into last year’s government funding bill to block White from making any sudden moves. At least for now, that provision will stay in place: Democrats caved, and Wednesday, Congress passed a measure that keeps the government afloat until early December (without the additional aid for Flint) and allows members to escape to their re-election campaigns, safe in the knowledge that corporations can continue to spend darkly.

There is a substantial appetite for a nondisclosing vehicle, because it’s embarrassing to support Trump… There are more donors who are willing to support Donald anonymously than with their names on it.

An anonymous donor to Politico’s Kenneth Vogel on the extra appeal of dark money groups for Republican donors in this year’s presidential election. (Hat tip to EveryVoice’s Adam Smith for highlighting this quote.)

Figures for presidential and congressional races from the Center for Responsive Politics; figures for state races from the National Institute of Money in State Politics. All figures as of Sept. 29.

Wired editor Joanna Pearlstein put together this fascinating map of the ZIP codes from which Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump collect their biggest donations. Clinton’s top three ZIP codes (10024, 10011 and 10025) are all responsible roughly $100,000 in contributions and all in Manhattan: two on the Upper West Side and one in Chelsea. Her top non-New York City neighborhood, responsible for $73,541.20 in donations, is in Northwest Washington, DC.

Trump’s top neighborhood is also in Manhattan (Midtown East) but collected far less — $30,647.79. His runner-up ZIP code is in the northern suburbs of Austin, Texas, and contributed $23,950.


$2.5 billion

That’s one estimate of the record-breaking sum that cable news channels could pull in during this telegenic election year.

Palmer Luckey

The 24-year-old Silicon Valley millionaire made his fortune in 2014, when Facebook bought a virtual reality technology, Oculus, that he had invented. Along with two members of an alt-right thread on reddit, he helped found, and underwrite to the tune of $10,000, a pro-Trump 501(c)4 group called Nimble America dedicated to disseminating anti-Clinton memes (his term for it is descriptive but not suitable for family reading). “I’ve got plenty of money,” Luckey told The Daily Beast. “Money is not my issue. I thought it sounded like a real jolly good time.”

On the stump, Donald Trump has been a critic of hedge fund managers, and a proponent of eliminating the carried interest tax loophole that allows these investors to pay roughly half what most Americans do on income. “They make a fortune, they pay no tax… The hedge funds guys are getting away with murder,” he told CBS last year. “We will eliminate the carried interest deduction and other special interest loopholes that have been so good for Wall Street investors, and for people like me, but unfair to American workers,” he said at an economic policy speech in August. But hedge funders don’t seem terribly concerned about statements like these. Carl Icahn, Steven Mnuchin and Stephen Feinberg have all been supportive of his campaign — and on Thursday night, Wall Street investor and influence monger Anthony Scaramucci is set to host a fundraiser for The Donald, alongside investor Howard Lorber, who is a member of Trump’s economic advisory team, Donald Trump Jr. and wrestling magnate Linda McMahon.

John Light


John Light is a reporter and producer for the Moyers team. His work has appeared at The Atlantic, Grist, Mother Jones, Salon, Slate, Vox and Al Jazeera, and has been broadcast on Public Radio International. He’s a graduate of Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. You can follow him on Twitter at @LightTweeting.