Journalism in the Public Interest


Podcast: Kim Barker on the Tactics Fueling Dark Money


An ad paid for by the 501(c)(4) Americans for Prosperity.

Super PACs have been lauded as the ultimate game changers this election season, but ProPublica's Kim Barker points us to their often-ignored cousins, social welfare nonprofit groups, otherwise known as 501(c)(4)s, and how they're bankrolling the campaigns. These nonprofits have already spent more than $71 million on TV ads mentioning a candidate for president, more than all super PACs combined, according to estimates from Kantar Media's Campaign Media Analysis Group. They continue to use questionable tactics to pour dark money into elections.

Barker joins us in the podcast studio this week to discuss how these 501(c)(4)s are underreporting their political activity to the IRS and why that matters. Ultimately, she asks, "Are we OK, as a democracy, with having all this anonymous money coming in?"

You can read Barker's report, How Nonprofits Spend Millions on Elections and Call It Public Welfare, check out the corresponding news app, and more on our Campaign 2012 series page. You can also listen to this podcast on Stitcher and iTunes.

Potomac Oracle

Aug. 22, 2012, 8:42 p.m.

Why would you expect a plutocracy to be egalitarian? By definition the plutocrats need to have a resistant free citizenry to accomplish its goal of total control over all of the affairs of men who are not also plutocrats.

America is now in denial about the reality of its having lost the war on constitutional freedom which supports a Democratic Republic.

There will never be a recoupment of the Democracy, now that the 1% control the very process of Presidential decision making through their massive dollar “investments” in the 2012 Presidential campaign..

The Presidential Bully Pulpit to counter this corruption of our political process is a power artifact of the past.  Now, and forever more Presidents will be given corporatist objectives by the Plutocrats. These Presidents are told to attain and maintain corporatist objectives irrespective of public purpose.

History is the proof.  Since Reagan, corporate goals have become the guiding principles of Federal governance. The 40 years of economic financialization of this economy, and the neglect of domestic productive investment is adequate evidence that our nation will never re-enter the world of sustainable, long term growth.

We haven’t lost it, we walked away from it.  When the people stop interacting with their representatives beyond voting, why would anybody think that the megacorporations, foriegn powers, and general miscreants would do the same?  And without our voices, with biased suggestions whispered in their ears by everybody else, why would anybody think that a politician would support us over them?

Apply the same logic to how you think about mass media.  If someone watches MSNBC or Fox, but not the other, you assume that their sources are biased and you probably call them brainwashed.  What unbiased source can your Congressmen access?

(Keep in mind, also, that a lot of government is frightened of the future.  The “nation-state” as we know it came in with the Industrial Revolution, probably not coincidentally.  In a world where people can come together spontaneously and voluntarily to build an encyclopedia, a computer operating system, or a 3D printer, anybody in power with half a brain should be realizing that they need to adapt and loosen their hold, if they’re going to maintain any power at all.  Those that lack that partial brain are pushing for increased surveillance and enforcement of their own power…)


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