EDITORS NOTE: Every week we cross-post an excerpt from Katrina vanden Heuvels column at the WashingtonPost.com. Browse the full archive of Katrinas Washington Post columns here.
Dark money is our latest electoral scourge. A deluge of the unregulated, often undisclosed cash has flooded the 2022 primary season, influencing elections nationwide. Senate Republicans, backed by corporate lobbies, consistently block congressional action on the problem. However now, Democrats, at the very least, get the chance to completely clean up their very own primaries.
Once the Democratic National Committee gathers in Washington this week, Judith Whitmer, chair of hawaii party in Nevada, and much more than 30 DNC members will support DNC Resolution 19, contacting the party to ban dark profit Democratic primaries.
No-one can doubt that action is imperative. Based on the nonpartisan research group OpenSecrets, dark money topped $1 billion in the 2020 presidential race. This season, the Wesleyan Media Project reported, nearly 60 percent of most ads in Democratic House primaries have already been purchased by sources that didn’t disclose, or only partially disclosed, their donors.
A growing amount of cash from corporations and Republican mega-donors is spewing into Democratic primaries to defeat progressive candidates. Possibly the most notorious example may be the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and its own various affiliated PACs and outlets, which reportedly raised $1 million each from leading Republican super-donors Bernie Marcus and Paul Singer within a war chest used against progressive primary candidates. A lot more than $2 million was poured into largely negative ads against Summer Lee, a progressive state legislator running in Pittsburgh, accusing her to be a disloyal Democrat. Lee began because the odds-on favorite and barely survived, but other progressive women of colorincluding Donna Edwards in Maryland, Nina Turner in Ohio, Jessica Cisneros in Texas, and Nida Allam in North Carolinasuffered defeat amid the flood of negative ads funded by AIPAC along with other outside groups.
AIPACs example is only going to swell the torrents of dark money flowing into primaries later on. Due to partisan gerrymandering, less than 15 percent of congressional districts will have contested general elections. In the rest, the principal effectively decides the winner, and because it is usually less expensive when compared to a general election, a lot more deep-pocket donors will see it within their interest to intervene early. As Whitmer told THE COUNTRY, the coming avalanche of dark money gets to the stage where people lose their to choose their very own candidates.
The DNC gets the authority to do something. The courts have ruled that the political parties are essentially voluntary organizations with free-association rights. They are able to make their very own rules for selecting their candidates.
A ban on dark money from outside groups wont be an easy task to enforce. The Whitmer resolution demands the party to create mechanisms to research and expose the usage of dark money, also to empower states to create primary rules to make sure transparency.
Likely measures could include requiring all candidates to disavow outside advertising by groups with undisclosed donors. Sanctions against contracting with campaign firms and operatives who work with groups in violation will be a lot more effective. Campaign advertising has turned into a notorious money-making racket for consultants, and endangering the flow of dough to the major advertising, consulting, and fundraising firms could have a sobering effect.
The true be worried about partial campaign finance reformsthat no candidate or party can unilaterally disarmdoesnt apply here. The DNC will be reforming contests among competing Democratsand any dark-money ban would surely help curb the interference of Republican interests in those elections.
With progressives the big targets of outside money, its unsurprising that progressive leaders have led the decision for reform. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has formally called on the DNC to do something, stating, Dark money is dark money, whether it’s funded by Republican billionaires or Democratic billionaires. If the flood continues, Sanders argues, it’ll demoralize the Democratic base and alienate potential Democratic voters.
In June, Congressional Progressive Caucus leaders Pramila Jayapal (Wash.), Mark Pocan (Wis.), and Jamie B. Raskin (Md.) urged the heads of most three major party bodiesthe DNC, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committeeto ban super PAC profit Democratic primaries, warning that record sums of money from millionaires and billionaires have infiltrated our primaries, andhave drowned out the grassroots campaigns of working class, progressive candidates.
The DNC convenes on Friday. Its meetings are traditionally controlled tightly from the very best. The chairmannow Jaime Harrisontakes his signals from the White House. He usually holds enough proxies from DNC members who cannot attend the meeting to ensure the results.
Passing of Whitmers resolution shouldnt be controversial. Democrats in both House and the Senate voted overwhelmingly for HR 1, the sweeping voting-rights bill introduced in 2021, including strong campaign finance elements. President Biden campaigned because of its passage. That bill was ultimately defeated, however now the Democratic National Committee may take action to completely clean its house. It will not fail this test.