Monday, February 17, 2014

Shining a light on dark money,... much too late to do any good

Here's an interesting article at TPM about the Koch brothers' "dark money man" in 2010 and 2012, Sean Noble:
Plucked from obscurity by libertarian billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, Noble was tasked with distributing a torrent of political money raised by the Koch network, a complex web of nonprofits nicknamed the Kochtopus, into conservative causes in the 2010 and 2012 elections.

Noble handed out almost $137 million in 2012 alone -- all of it so-called dark money from unnamed donors -- from his perch atop the Center to Protect Patient Rights, a group run out of an Arizona post office box. ...

Noble appears to have lost his central position in the Koch empire, undone by poor election results and a California investigation that shined an unwelcome light on some of the Center's inner workings, insiders say.

But his story shows how the Supreme Court's landmark 2010 Citizens United ruling has given rise to a new breed of power brokers who control a growing pool of money raised in secret and spent to influence politics in ways that voters can't always trace.

Much of Noble's work in 2012 remained invisible to the public until the Center and dozens of other Koch-backed nonprofits released their tax returns late last year. ...

Sheila Krumholz, the executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan watchdog group that has written extensively about the Koch network, said disclosures from nonprofits come far too late to help voters and regulators.

"What we're ending up with is information which is almost entirely useless to the voters," she said. "Because it's come so far after the election, so far after the fact that voters can barely remember what these organizations were doing and on behalf of which candidates or parties."

Yup. It's 2014. What good does it do us to find out now how the Koch brothers were trying to buy elections in 2012?

You have to know they're already spending secret money on this year's elections, but thanks to Citizens United, billionaires can spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections in secret.

This is dark money. It's raised in the shadows and spent in the shadows. It's bad enough that politicians can get bought off by this legalized bribery anyway, but voters don't even get to know who's doing the buying or for what reason.

It's a long article at TPM - interesting, but focusing more on Sean Noble himself. The Koch brothers themselves are secretive in the extreme, and so are most of the other billionaires trying to buy America's politicians at nearly all levels of government.

Note that, to a large extent, this is still the fallout from electing Republican presidents in the past - presidents who appointed the right-wing fanatics who still dominate on our Supreme Court. Mistakes like that don't end when the president leaves office. We'll be paying for a lifetime, even if we don't make such a terrible mistake again.

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