Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse devoted his first day of questions to Neil Gorsuch to the subject of “dark money.” He meant money that goes to politicians and political causes from contributors who aren’t identified.
Whitehouse complained about a $10 million campaign in support of confirming Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. According to Whitehouse, “dark money” is being used to finance this campaign.
Whitehouse did not claim that Judge Gorsuch is involved in the campaign to get him confirmed. Nor did Gorsuch ever benefit from dark money in a political campaign. The Judge has never run for public office.
The same, apparently, cannot be said of Sen. Whitehouse. Reportedly, he has taken more than $25,000 in campaign donations from the League of Conservation Voters. This included almost $19,000 in the 2016 election cycle.
According to the Center for Public Integrity, the League of Conservation Voters is a “dark money heavyweight.” In 2012, it spent $36 million, around 40 percent of which — nearly $15 million — came in the form of “direct and indirect political campaign activities.”
The League of Conservation Voters takes advantage of the rules that enable “dark money” to come into play:
While super PACs, candidates’ campaigns and traditional political action committees must regularly report their funders, the Federal Election Commission has interpreted the law to require politically active nonprofits to disclose only the names of donors who give for the specific purpose of “furthering” particular ads — something that rarely happens.
Repeatedly in 2012, the League of Conservation Voters told the FEC that all expenditures were paid for by money from its “general treasury funds.”
Little is known about the sources of the League of Conservation Voters’ cash — although, earlier this year, it got a boost at an annual fundraising gala that featured speeches by Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Al Franken, D-Minn.
I see nothing wrong with any of this. But it seems like hypocrisy for Sen. Whitehouse to harangue Judge Gorsuch about “dark money” — and to imply, as he did, that the “dark money” interests pushing for his confirmation are doing so in the hope of getting favorable rulings — while he accepts “dark money” in election cycle after election cycle.