Despite constant calls from Democrats to end the use of dark money in politics, liberal groups that don’t have to disclose their donors appear to be gearing up for even more activity in 2020.
In 2018, liberal groups accounted for 54 percent of all the dark money spent, with the Chuck Schumer-linked Majority Forward alone accounting for about $1 of every $3. Schumer’s group has already launched a $600,000 ad buy attacking vulnerable Republicans, and this appears to be just the beginning of more to come.
Recently, Democratic strategists launched House Majority Forward, a new group that plans to spend millions to help amplify the House Democratic agenda. The group has ties to House Majority PAC, but unlike the PAC, it does not have to disclose where it gets its funding. In July, the group began running its first TV and digital ads, part of a $10 million issue advertising plan for 2019.
In April, Democrats formed another new left-wing dark money group. Future Majority, which is being led by liberal operatives and Obama alumni, is planning a $60 million effort to provide strategic advice to Democratic groups, work on party branding efforts, and conduct communications outreach in the Midwest. The sources of that $60 million will not have to be disclosed.
New groups are also popping up in states that are expected to have competitive Senate races. Iowa Forward has already spent or reserved nearly $1 million in advertising critical of Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA). There’s also Maine Momentum, which recently went on television with an ad-buy worth more than $700,000 attacking Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) for supporting the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Neither group is required to disclose its donors.
Previously established liberal groups are also ramping up their dark money efforts. Priorities USA, which collected almost $200 million to help Hillary Clinton in 2016, said it wants to spend that much or more to help the next Democratic nominee defeat President Trump. The difference is that now the funding will come from mostly undisclosed donations. According to a statement from the group, it has collected $23.4 million in the first half of the year. $18.6 million of that went to Priorities’ nonprofit arm, where the funding sources do not have to be disclosed. Meanwhile, the group’s super PAC, which does disclose donors, has only collected $4.8 million in the first half of the year. For comparison, at this point in the 2016 cycle, the PAC had already raised nearly $15.7 million, a sign of shifting Democratic spending strategies.
Democracy Alliance, a secretive George Soros-connected group, is also gearing up to spend big in 2020. The group is comprised of unnamed “powerful Progressive donors” and has invested $1.83 billion in progressive causes since its founding in 2005. Assuming they hit their goals, that number will likely cross the $2 billion mark, as the group plans to inject $275 million into progressive infrastructure leading up to the 2020 election.
All told, these groups are planning to spend upwards of $640 million on Democratic causes during the 2020 cycle. And voters will have no clue where any of it came from.