Dark Money Under Fire as Election 2016 Heats Up – Lauren McCauley

While Democratic candidates are lining up to denounce the huge influence that dark money is having on politics in the U.S., a new report says that 2016 presidential candidates are relying on such secret contributions “like never before.”

In a speech before thousands, likely watched by millions more, Hillary Clinton formally launched her presidential bid on Saturday. During the address given on New York’s Roosevelt Island, the Democratic frontrunner railed against the “endless flow of secret, endless money” in politics, saying that she would support a Constitutional amendment to undo the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United “if necessary.”

These strong words, directed at the large majority of Americans who believe that money has “too much influence” in contemporary American politics, come at the outset of an election cycle expected to attractunprecedented levels of outside spending.

For his part, hopeful Democratic nominee Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) has sworn off Super PACs and has introduced legislation to dismantle Citizens United.

Alternately, Clinton has come under fire for her long-time association with billionaire donors as well as for the campaign Super PACs backing her bid. Critics were skeptical that the candidate’s “vague”nod towards a constitutional amendment would amount to much.

“Clinton appears to think rhetoric alone can mislead American voters justifiably fed up with shadowy super PAC spending,” Kurt Walters, campaign manager with the money in politics reform group Rootstrikers, said in an email statement. “In fact, far from offering concrete plans for reform, Clinton has actively pried open more ways for big money to flow into the political system, like her unprecedented coordination with a super PAC, Correct the Record.”

However, she is not alone. A new report by the Brennan Center for Justice published Friday outlines the ways in which the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling—and thus Super PACs —has reshaped the political landscape.

“The 2016 candidates are using super PACs like never before,” says report author Brent Ferguson, Counsel in the Brennan Center’s Democracy program.

“While many have understood that super PACs would make a significant impact on American elections,” Ferguson continues, “few could have predicted the speed with which they have evolved and moved to the center of our political system.” According to the analysis, the six ways that candidates are engaging with these outside big-money groups are:

1. Presidential aspirants appear to be delaying their formal announcements to avoid following rules that apply to candidates.

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