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Billionaires and shadowy groups fund record-breaking election

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Proponents of tougher limits on money in politics said they worry about the potential for corruption, but they aren't optimistic about changes to the system. The Disclose Act in Congress, which would have forced campaigns to identify donors who gave more than $10,000, failed in the Senate.

The relaxed spending rules aren't upsetting everyone, including advocates who said unlimited contributions amount to political speech protected by the First Amendment. Some said rules requiring campaigns to identify donors violate a person's right to anonymous speech.

Whatever the case, the new rules have effectively allowed some donors to remain anonymous, such as in the case of a super PAC helping conservative candidates. FreedomWorks for America reported more than $5.2 million in donations during the first half of October — about 90 percent of the group's fundraising haul — from an apparent shell company in Knoxville, Tenn.

The money came from a company, Specialty Group Inc., established five days before it made its first contributions; that money has paid for more than $1.5 million in last-minute ad buys. A FreedomWorks spokeswoman declined to say whether its campaign finance report would be amended, saying the group doesn't comment on its donors.

Yet FreedomWorks isn't alone on its spending spree, particularly at the last minute as Election Day approaches. More than $1 billion has been spent this election cycle on independent expenditures from outside groups, and nearly $900 million is spent opposing candidates, according to figures compiled by the nonprofit group Sunlight Foundation.

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