IRS Makes “Dark Money” Easier to Conceal on the Same Day NRA Gets Caught With More Russian Ties

Thanks to a small but impactful IRS rule change, Donald Trump’s Treasury Department just made it way easier for dark money to affect our elections. To make matters worse, the change makes it that much more difficult for even the government to keep track on whether money comes from nefarious sources. ::cough the Russians cough::

WHAT IS DARK MONEY?

Before we go any further, let’s take a moment to define the term. Simply put, dark money is political spending that cannot be traced back to the donor. Whereas politicians and super PACs have to report the money and source what they accept to the FEC, there are politically active organizations and nonprofits that are permitted to take in huge amounts of cash without disclosing where it’s coming from.

The preexisting policy on dark money was already plenty atrocious: special interests and the wealthy could slide money to an existing group with a particular political bent and not have that spending traced back to them. In turn, those groups could lobby and advertise without ever identifying who in particular was funding them.

SO WHAT’S DIFFERENT NOW?

Though this money wasn’t publicly disclosed, groups had to include donors of over $5,000 on their tax forms so that there was some record of it. Republicans don’t even want a paper trail that secretive to exist because they’re supposedly concerned that there could be leaks from the IRS.

Conservatives’ “concern” for that is largely unfounded. Leaks from the IRS are unheard of, though six years ago the IRS did accidentally fail to redact dark money given to the conservative group Crossroads GPS, which pissed off Republicans.

When Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says that the change won’t impact the amount of information the public has, he’s telling the truth – the American people weren’t privy to this information already. However, at the very least, the government should be able to verify where the money is coming from in case of impropriety.

WHY DOES THIS RULE CHANGE MAKE THINGS EVEN WORSE?

The timing of the rule change is extremely poor if not downright suspicious. Coincidentally or not, on the same day the Justice Department arrested Russian spy Maria Butina, the Treasury Department instituted this dark money filing change. Butina’s espionage underscores why it’s important for the government to have a record; as we’ve learned in recent months, Russia was pumping huge amounts money into the U.S. election via the NRA.

Eliminating any need to disclose financial sources – even privately to the government – makes it that much easier for Russia to continue doing precisely that with American groups like the NRA. Rather than tackling that issue, the administration has opened the door even further for outside money to infiltrate our elections.

WHY IS THIS ISSUE PARTISAN?

As conservative outlet the National Review points out, dark money goes both ways. In this instance, he same set of rules that apply to the NRA also apply to money given to more traditionally liberal organizations like Planned Parenthood or the Sierra Club, and donors to these entities enjoy the same privacy.

That’s true, but Mother Jones correctly counters that this change is entirely a Republican concoction. When the GOP Congress tried to pass this rule during Barack Obama’s presidency, the Democrats put the kibosh on it out of concern that it would make it that much more difficult to verify whether nonprofits were following the proper rules.

It seems likely that Republicans know that they’re benefiting from outside money sliding into the election through these channels and intentionally want to make it that much more difficult to spot. Our elections are being hijacked through various means and this administration has no interest in trying to stop it.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

46 comments

Eric Lees
Eric Lees4 months ago

@Joan E

"Not all politicians are corrupt. Some, like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, are tireless workers for the rights of the people. They are nothing like Trump and the Republicans. Don't give in to that kind of thinking, that everyone is the same. No one can be trusted. Find out who you can trust, and stand with them."

It's too bad neither one understand basic economics or they are just hypocrites. Both are silent on the FED. If they were serious then the FED would be enemy #1.
Where are the real progressives?

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Susanne R
Susanne R4 months ago

The NRA has limitless amounts of money with which to buy our politicians' votes. They even have access to Russian money! President Eisenhower warned us about this --but who knows more-- someone like Wayne LaPierre or the man who served as: the Supreme Allied Commander Europe; the Chief of Staff of the United States Army; the Military Governor of the U.S. Occupation Zone in Germany; the Supreme Commander Allied Expeditionary Force in Western Europe; the Commanding General, European Theater of Operations; the Commander-in-Chief, Allied Forces in North Africa; two-term President of the U.S.A.?

What's most disturbing to me is that there are individuals who serve as disciples and offer their services for free --and these people devote a lot of time to it. Of course the NRA has them believing a lot of half-truths and outright lies and has them worried about ideas they put in their heads for the purpose of controlling them. Maybe it's a cult. As trump would say, "SAD!".

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Joan E
Joan E4 months ago

Not all politicians are corrupt. Some, like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, are tireless workers for the rights of the people. They are nothing like Trump and the Republicans. Don't give in to that kind of thinking, that everyone is the same. No one can be trusted. Find out who you can trust, and stand with them.

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Joan E
Joan E4 months ago

Trump is making America a kleptocracy for himself and his evil appointees.

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Leanne K
Leanne K4 months ago

Talk about a red flag, the NRA are hiding a LOT. You may want to get in there rather than tip them off. Crooks and sneaky ones at that. All possible under Trump

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Leanne K
Leanne K4 months ago

Every company and organisation ought to have their systems in place where everything is checked and balanced clearly. If not, they cannot complain when asked for otherwise normally readily accessible information. And in the NRAs case, its a sign they are up to no good

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Leanne K
Leanne K4 months ago

Well I hope some drug dealer is taking note, it will serve the government right if the other crooks took advantage of these kind of laws

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RK R
RK R4 months ago

I volunteer to do this since I know much about IRS audits. I will gladly audit the NRA's donation records for Frazer. Contact me! “It is not feasible for the NRA or any non-profit to respond to such an overbroad request,” Frazer wrote. “Therefore, given the extraordinarily time-consuming and burdensome nature of your requests, we must respectfully decline to engage in this beyond the clear answers we have already provided.”

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Cindy S
Cindy Smith4 months ago

sadly all politicians are evil,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

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Sherri S
Sherri S4 months ago

I think almost all politicians are corrupt....that includes Democrats and Republicans.

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