Political contributions totaling millions of dollars made during the 2007-2008 election cycle have been erased from a federal database maintained by the Federal Election Commission
According to three university academics studying campaign financing from the 2008 election, the FEC, for reasons unknown, deleted numerous donations, including those referred to as “dark money.”
Dark money represents funds given to nonprofit groups, otherwise referred to as 501(c)s, that run advertisements for and against candidates without coordinating with the campaigns in question.
One example cited by the researchers (Thomas Ferguson and Jie Chen of the University of Massachusetts and Paul Jorgensen, a Harvard fellow) involved conservative benefactor Harold Simmons, who contributed to the American Issues Project in 2008. Simmons helped finance political ads that tried to link Barack Obama with William Ayres, a former 1960s radical and member of the Weather Underground.
But Simmons’ nearly $3 million in contributions to the American Issues Project can no longer be found in the FEC database.
The same was true for Republican supporter Jack Templeton, Jr.’s donations, worth almost $3 million, to Let Freedom Ring, which also received $100,000 from Foster Friess, another wealthy GOP donor.
The researchers said the FEC’s removal of campaign contributions without public comment was “scandalous.”
“It flouts the agency’s legal mandate to track political money and mocks the whole spirit of what the FEC was set up to do. No less seriously, as legal challenges and public criticism of similar contributions in the 2012 election cycle rise to fever pitch, the FEC’s action wipes out one of the few sources of real evidence about how dark money works.”
The story, published by AlterNet, created a stir among some members of the media. It also may have prompted the FEC to restore some of the records, according to the researchers in a follow-up article.
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