When it comes to politics, the actions of social welfare nonprofits are usually hard to track. And unlike political action committees, these “dark money” groups can channel money to influence elections without naming their donors.
But as ProPublica’s Theo Meyer explains in this week’s podcast, an accidentally released court filing revealed how a mining company known as the Cline Group used dark money groups to help pass a law that would speed up Wisconsin’s mining permit process.
Meyer describes the release as a “fluke” -- a federal court in Chicago mistakenly posted the legal document online for a few hours -- that provided a rare look behind the scenes: In 2011 and 2012, the mining company had secretly given $700,000 to a conservative nonprofit that worked to pass the bill.
“For once we actually know something about how the money was spent and where it came from,” says ProPublica Editor-in-Chief Stephen Engelberg.
Meyer agrees. “This is really just one of a handful of instances in which donors to groups like this have become public,” Meyer explains. “And unless you have subpoena power and can get bank records from these groups, it’s really impossible to see who is funding the effort.”