Dark Parties: Dark Money Networks and Political Parties after Citizens United.

44 Pages Posted: 13 Jul 2018 Last revised: 27 Jul 2020

See all articles by Stan Oklobdzija

Stan Oklobdzija

UC Riverside School of Public Policy

Date Written: June 29, 2020


Following the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. FEC, independent expenditures have grown dramatically both in terms of raw dollars and as a percentage of spending in elections. A large and growing portion comes from political nonprofits—so called “dark money” groups—named because the terms of their incorporation allow them to partially obscure the sources of their income. I develop a new data set of about 2,350,000 tax documents released by the IRS and use it to test a new theory of spending in Congressional elections. I posit that the pathways for anonymous giving that emerged from the Citizens United decision allowed ideologically motivated interest groups to form new networks and create new pathways for money into candidate races apart from established factions of political parties. Akin to networked party organizations discovered by other scholars, these networked dark money groups channel money from central hubs to peripheral electioneering groups. Viewed holistically, including dark money groups into the party network frame reshapes the network as a whole–making previously peripheral nodes more important to the larger network and redefining the role that party organizations and interest groups fulfill in party networks.

Keywords: dark money, political parties, congress, campaign finance

Suggested Citation

Oklobdzija, Stan, Dark Parties: Dark Money Networks and Political Parties after Citizens United. (June 29, 2020). Political Networks Workshops & Conference 2018, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3189918 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3189918

Stan Oklobdzija (Contact Author)

UC Riverside School of Public Policy ( email )

United States

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