And at least $437,000 in Senate Majority PAC’s coffers is textbook “dark money.” That amount comes from Majority Forward, a liberal 501(c)(4) “social welfare” nonprofit that doesn’t report its donors, despite spending millions of dollars each year on politically charged ads.
Majority Forward raised $10.1 million last year, according to the Washington Post. The nonprofit also found ways around disclosing how much it spends on electioneering ads, as well, by airing the ads at certain times that don’t trigger federal disclosure requirements.
Majority Forward and Senate Majority PAC share office space, staff members and even a president — J.B. Poersch, former managing director at SKDKnickerbocker and executive director at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. In fact, Senate Majority PAC lists its donations from Majority Forward as “salary, rent and insurance.” (Republicans have a similar set up, with the super PAC Senate Leadership Fund working closely with a nonprofit arm, One Nation.)
“This race was about whether or not an alleged child molester would represent Alabama in the Senate,” said Chris Hayden, communications director for Senate Majority PAC. “And to help ensure that did not happen, we chose to keep the focus on Alabama and the voters of that state.”
Highway 31’s second-largest donor, super PAC Priorities USA Action, similarly used “dark money” to fuel itself.
Last election cycle, Priorities USA Action, which was Hillary Clinton’s main super PAC supporter, generated $192 million. Megadonors such as Soros, Eychaner and Sussman and hedge fund mogul James Simons ranked among its biggest donors.
But Priorities USA Action trades in millions of dollars worth of “dark money,” too.
It’s a money trail worthy of a Rube Goldberg cartoon. Highway 31 gets money from super PAC Priorities USA Action, which gets some money from super PAC House Majority PAC, which gets money from super PAC Working for Working Americans, which gets all its money from the union United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, which is funded by more than 400,000 dues-paying members whose names aren’t publicly disclosed. Several other “dark money” daisy chains abound.
Priorities USA Action officials declined to comment for this story.
The last of Highway 31’s major donors — the League of Conservation Voters, Inc., an environmental nonprofit — is effectively a black box. The organization does not disclose its funders, as it’s under no legal obligation to do so.
The League of Conservation Voters’ 2016 tax return, the latest available, indicates the group received $38.8 million in contributions and grants. In the past, the League of Conservation Voters has accepted grants from other nonprofits such as the liberal Patriot Majority USA, Green Tech Action Fund and America Votes, according to data from the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
“The League of Conservation Voters files all required reports,” said David Willett, senior vice president of communications. “We have tens of thousands of financial supporters because of our nearly 50 year history of advocating for environmental protection.”
Jones, Willett added, was well-known to Alabama environmentalists, making his Senate campaign worthy of support from the League of Conservation Voters. Why use Highway 31 to back Jones? “Because they were already up and running executing a good program — we knew that would be more effective than having to start up a new separate operation from scratch so close to election day,” he said.