Dark money appears to play a significant role in US politics, with various elections drawing millions of dollars of outside spending. Earlier in August, the OpenSecrets watchdog revealed that secret donors have already begun contributing to the 2022 midterm elections.
A nonpartisan Washington group called The Voter Participation Center reportedly spent over $100 million making sure that young people, people of colour and unmarried women turned out to vote during the 2020 White House race, The Hill reported, citing tax filings.
“At a time when in-person voter contact was sidelined for health and safety reasons, the Voter Participation Center really stood up and did the work that was needed to help register voters, to help voters learn about and sign up to vote by mail, and to educate voters on early voting in person, voting by mail and how to vote safely on election day,” said Tom Lopach, the group’s chief executive, cited by the outlet.
While the group does not advocate for specific candidates, the targeted voter groups overwhelmingly tend to vote blue.
According to Lopach, the group delivered some 300 million digital messages and 371 million pieces of mail during the 2020 election cycle, urging people to vote by mail or take part in early voting. Overall, he estimated that the group helped some 1.6 million people register to vote and another 4.5 million apply for mail-in ballots, noting that 272,000 people might not have cast their ballot had it not been for the group’s efforts.
As noted by The Hill, this number could have been enough to secure US President Joe Biden’s victory in key states like Arizona, Wisconsin and Georgia, where he outperformed Donald Trump by a few tens of thousands of votes.
The head of Democratic analytics firm TargetSmart, Tom Bonier, credited the group with playing “a key role in expanding the electorate, resulting in record turnout, generally through innovative voter registration and engagement programs.”
Notably, The Voter Participation Center is described by some as one of the ‘dark money groups’ which do not have to disclose their donors, as it is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization under US tax law. In the United States, there are many such organisations, that ramp up activities during major election season.
The 2020 White House race was not the only election impacted by fundings from non-profit groups as watchdog OpenSecrets said that, as of August, multiple undisclosed donors are already funneling money into voter outreach for the upcoming 2022 midterms.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks so-called dark money spending in election races, some $30,561,344 was poured into the 2020 presidential race, with other “expensive” races including elections in the Senates of Georgia, North Carolina and Montana.
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