Tuesday, September 16, 2014

50 SHADES OF DARK MONEY: GOP AG's Assoc. Money Is A Few Shades Darker Than Democratic Counterparts; Here's Why (ANALYSIS, FOLLOWING MONEY IN ARIZONA'S POLITICS)

(11:55a.m.: I inadvertently published this without attaching the planned acknowledgment and disclaimer.  Arizona's Politics is an independent, non-partisan political news blog. When we engage in analysis or commentary, we attempt to label it as such. This article may be classified as "news analysis" because it attempts to "provid(e) interpretations that add to a reader's understanding of a subject." Arizona attorney Paul Weich contributed to the research and reporting in this article.)

Arizona's Politics has been reporting on the coming air war between the national associations for the Democratic Attorneys General and the Republican Attorneys General.  Both are either spending or preparing to spend more than $1 Million in Arizona to paint the other party's nominee for Arizona Attorney General as the worst thing since sliced Wonder Bread (hey, this is truly the whole wheat, artisanal or gluten free era! ;-) )

Where does all that money come from, and is it "dark money" or pure-as-Ivory-Soap-money?

Obviously, it is NOT the latter!  But, there are different definitions and degrees of "dark money", and we will attempt to clearly explain how we come to the conclusion that DAGA's money is a few shades lighter than RAGA's.

Both DAGA's Arizona attack ad arm - Grand Canyon Committee for Justice & Fairness ("GC-CJF") and RAGA's - RAGA Arizona IE - have registered with the Arizona Secretary of State's Office, indicating that they will follow Arizona's campaign finance laws. (This was not the case with DAGA's CJF in 2010, and that is currently before the Supreme Court of Arizona.)

However, Arizona's campaign finance laws are relaxed when it comes to identifying the original source of funds - hence, Arizona is "dark money" friendly.  (Arizona's Politics discussed the *anonymizing* process in light of California's settlement with two of Arizona political consultant Sean Noble's committees.  The same operation had been involved with a large anonymized cash flow for the anti-education-sales-tax-extension effort led by State Treasurer Doug Ducey.

When their first (substantive) finance reports are due to the Secretary of State on September 25, GC-CJF and RAGA will both likely show contributions only from their parent organizations.  That makes their pre-election disclosures several shades darker.

Their parent organizations do NOT have to disclose to the states or to the Federal Election Commission ("FEC").  They do, however, have to report to the Internal Revenue Service ("IRS") on a regular basis as Section 527 "Political Organizations".  In these reports, they DO have to list the contributors, the amounts contributed, and basic expenditure information.  They do NOT get to redact key information as politically-active social welfare organizations - such as the aforementioned Noble organizations - are able to do.

This makes DAGA and RAGA several shades lighter than the social welfare organizations and other groups that have become known as "dark money".

HOWEVER, in reviewing the IRS filings of DAGA/CJF and RAGA, it is apparent that - in addition to the many normal political contributions and the somewhat questionable ones of businesses or industries that may be hoping for kind treatment from state law enforcement agencies ("pay-not-to-prosecute"?) - the latter (RAGA) also has received a lot of seed money from actual dark money organizations.

RAGA collected approximately $7.4M in the first two quarters of 2014, compared to approximately $2.3M for DAGA.

Here are the largest contributors ($100,000 or greater) to RAGA in the 1st six months of this year:
1) U.S. Chamber of Commerce, ≈ $1.2 Million
2) American Future Fund, $680,000
3) Judicial Crisis Network, $250,000
4) Republican State Leadership Committee, $185,000
5) Republican Governors Association, $175,000
6) Devon Energy (Koch Industries-connected), $125,000
7) Koch Industries, $125,000
8) WellPoint, $125,000
9) Progress Project, $120,000
10)Blue Cross/Blue Shield, South Carolina, $104,900
11)Citi Business Services, $101,030
12)American Society of Anesthesiologists, $100,000 (gave $50,000 to DAGA)

Of those, #1-3 and #9 are completely dark money, totaling $2.25M of the $7.4M collected.  The $360,000 from #4-5 also contain portions of dark money from the same or similar sources, and some of the smaller contributions may also be from dark money groups. So, somewhat greater than 30% of the total collected by RAGA has dark money origins.

Here are DAGA's $100,000+ contributors for the first two quarters of 2014:
1) Teamsters/DRIVE Committee, $230,000
2) Henry Van Ameringen, $100,000

The closest to a significant dark money contribution to DAGA that we were able to locate was the $25,000 given by the AAJ PAC on Feb. 24.  The AAJ ("American Association for Justice") PAC received a $1.5M loan - far and away the most significant part of its budget - in July from "The Private Bank & Trust"; it is unclear whether that is a arms-length loan by the bank or a soon-to-be-forgiven loan from a friend.

As noted earlier - and it can not be emphasized enough - there are plenty of interesting questions that can be raised by other contributions (and expenditures) in these reports.  You could easily make the argument that the risk of inappropriate prosecutorial decisions - and, the difficulty in discovering and/or proving them - is greater in the DAGA/RAGA realm than the risks and resulting difficulties posed by similar contributions in the Republican Governors Association/DGA, the DCCC/NRCC, or similar realms in the legislative and executive areas.

However, this article intended to deal with the 50 shades of dark money in this corner of the campaign world. If we had time (or, the skills) for a cool graphic, we would do it. (Anyone? Anyone?) But, if money spent directly by a candidate is the least dark (0), and money spent after being filtered through several different businesses or organizations in an attempt to conceal the originators of the dollars is 50 shades of dark, money spent by committees that disclose before the election (to the Secretary of State or the FEC) falls somewhere in the middle.

If those disclosures end up showing that significant sums are coming from entities that will not disclose (to the IRS) until well after the election, then you have to take your dark money pencil and shade them in a bit more.  Even more if those secondary entities are non- or little-disclosing social welfare organizations/trade associations/corporations/etc.

SUMMARY: Arizona's AG's race, outside money edition: 
1) GC-CJF: Filed "no activity" report late, next one will likely just show "DAGA". DAGA discloses contributors to IRS quarterly. Few - if any - dark money contributors listed. SHADES OF DARK: 20

2) RAGA AZ IE: Registered this month. 1st report will likely just show "RAGA" as contributor. RAGA formed earlier this year, discloses contributors to IRS quarterly. A significant portion - estimated at between 30-35% of RAGA's intake is from very dark money contributors, with some possibly filtered through multiple entities. SHADES OF DARK: 35

(DAGA, CJF and RAGA IRS filings below the jump. Go on, jump if you dare.)

daga 8872 1q14

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