IN ONE of the most misbegotten rulings of recent times, the Supreme Court decided in Citizens United in 2010 that corporate campaign contributions are a protected form of free speech and that “effective disclosure” would guard against corruption. The court declared, “With the advent of the Internet, prompt disclosure of expenditures can provide shareholders and citizens with the information needed to hold corporations and elected officials accountable for their positions and supporters.” Moreover, the justices said, “This transparency enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages.”
The court’s assumption was naive and has largely proved wrong. “Dark money” campaign groups that keep their donors secret have ballooned in size and importance, including tax-exempt “social welfare” organizations that are allowed to conceal the sources of their funds. Now a new report from the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law shows how the contamination of dark money is spreading.
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