Dark Parties: Dark Money Networks and Political Parties after Citizens United.
44 Pages Posted: 13 Jul 2018 Last revised: 27 Jul 2020
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
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