When people talk about the web of dark money, boy howdy. It’s like one huge pot of it with all these tentacles oozing out of it, which is mixing metaphors, but you get the idea. At the center is Susan Collins’ pal Leonard Leo, in control of something like $1.6 billion that he’s using to construct even more groups to funnel the money through.
Does this stink? Yes, says Saurav Ghosh, director of federal campaign finance reform for the Campaign Legal Center. It’s a nonpartisan nonprofit founded by a former Republican member of the Federal Elections Commission. “Nothing screams ‘efforts to conceal’ quite like folding up an organization just as you start getting questions about it,” Gosh told Politico. Leo’s involvement in the sale of Conway’s firm, valued at between $1 and $5 million in her disclosure statement, shows why the “influence of dark money is doubly problematic once someone is in office because they’re [potentially] able to influence outcomes.”
This time, Leo and KellyAnne might just be caught up in something criminal. Watchdog group Campaign for Accountability has asked Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee Chair Gary Peters (D-MI) to investigate the sale conducted while Conway was serving as an executive branch employee. In that role, federal law barred her from participating “personally and substantially” in a matter before the government. Like a Supreme Court nomination.
“There are clear indications based on the facts at hand that Ms. Conway participated personally and substantially in advising President Trump to nominate Justices to the Supreme Court, and that her personal financial interests were affected,” Campaign for Accountability said in its complaint to Peters. “It is all the more urgent that [the committee] investigate this matter because it is possible criminal charges against Ms. Conway may be precluded by the general five-year statute of limitations governing most federal crimes,” said the complaint.
House Democrats don’t have the investigative power of the Senate now, but a group of them has once again introduced a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizen’s United ruling that triggered this flood of dark money. U.S. Representatives Adam Schiff (D-CA), Dean Phillips (D-MN), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), and Jim McGovern (D-MA) introduced the Democracy For All Amendment.
“The flow of unrestricted corporate and dark money into our elections has dangerously eroded the American people’s faith in our democracy, and in our government’s ability to deliver for them and their families. Citizens United was one of the most egregious enablers of special interest money, but it was only the latest in a long line of Supreme Court cases that opened the floodgates. To truly rein in dark money, we must amend our Constitution,” said Schiff. “The Democracy for All Amendment will close legal loopholes that wealthy megadonors, corporations, and special interest groups have exploited for far too long, and return power to the people once and for all.”
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