A Democratic Wisconsin Senate candidate who has railed against “dark money” in politics is being supported by a left-wing dark money network, Federal Election Commission (FEC) records show.
Mandela Barnes, whose top Senate primary opponents dropped out of the race in July, said in February “Dark money has no place in democracy” and pledges on his website “to stand up to the corrupting influence of dark money.” At the same time, Barnes was endorsed Monday by the Family Friendly Action PAC — which is dumping millions in his race to unseat Republican Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson and is largely funded by the dark money groups Sixteen Thirty Fund and America Votes, according to FEC filings.
Nonprofits with 501(c)(4) IRS exempt status are often referred to as “dark money” groups because they are under no legal obligation to disclose donors and can funnel unlimited sums to super PACs, according to OpenSecrets. Super PACs have to disclose their donors but can be “effectively dark money groups when the bulk of their funding cannot be traced back to the original donor,” according to OpenSecrets.
America Votes gave the Family Friendly Action PAC more than $16 million since September 2020, FEC filings show. America Votes, which is a “coordination hub of the progressive community” and has over 400 national and state partners to increase voter turnout, reportedly received millions from left-wing billionaire George Soros in 2016.
“This issue of dark money, of course, is a broad problem across the political spectrum and influences organizations with both right and left leanings,” Laurie Styron, executive director of Charity Watch, a group probing nonprofit ethics, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. (RELATED: Rust Belt Democrats Silent On Rep. Ocasio-Cortez Endorsements)
The dark money donations from America Votes and Sixteen Thirty Fund were first reported by the Washington Free Beacon.
Sixteen Thirty Fund notably granted America Votes almost $129 million in 2020, according to Sixteen Thirty Fund’s federal form 990 filing. Sixteen Thirty Fund spent more than $400 million to unseat former President Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election and flip the Senate blue, according to Politico.
“Hopefully we can all agree in principle that the public has a right to know who is funding politics in our country so we have adequate information with which to understand any biases influencing the messaging we collectively consume and any conflicts of interest that may be present,” Styron also said.
Family Friendly Action PAC will spend $5 million on canvassing for the Democratic Senate nominee in Wisconsin, Politico reported. The primary is slated for Aug. 9 and several Democratic candidates viewed as competitive, including Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry, have dropped out of the race, clearing the path for Barnes to win the primary, according to The Hill.
Barnes led his primary opponents in a June Marquette Law School poll, receiving the support of 25% of voters.
“Hypocrite Mandela Barnes claims to stand up against the corrupting influence of dark money while pocketing every dark money dime he can get,” a spokesman for Johnson’s campaign told the DCNF.
Barnes’ campaign did not respond to a request for comment, nor did spokespeople for the Family Friendly Action PAC, America Votes or Sixteen Thirty Fund.
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