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Biden calls for end to ‘dark money’ in US elections

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US President Joe Biden speaks about the DISCLOSE Act at the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington on September 20, 2022./AFP
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Sep 21, 2022 - 12:04 AM

WASHINGTON — US President Joe Biden renewed calls Tuesday for an end to secretive political spending by the super-rich, ahead of a Senate vote on curtailing so-called “dark money” in elections that looks doomed due to a lack of Republican support.

Democrats have spent years complaining that tycoons are handing over hundreds of millions of dollars to influence politics through loosely-regulated donations that are impossible to trace, heightening the threat of political corruption.

“There is much too much money that flows in the shadows to influence our elections. It’s called dark money. It’s hidden,” Biden said in a speech from the White House.

The president noted a recent $1.6 billion donation by a Chicago industrialist to the ultra-conservative Marble Freedom Trust, the largest single contribution to a political nonprofit ever disclosed, that only came to light thanks to the US media.

“Ultimately this comes down to public trust. Dark money erodes public trust. We need to protect public trust and I’m determined to do that,” the 79-year-old Democrat said.

Biden spoke out after Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced that the chamber would take a procedural vote on the DISCLOSE Act Wednesday.

The bill would require so-called “super PACs” — independent political action committees that are allowed to raise unlimited sums but cannot contribute directly to campaigns — and other dark money groups to report anyone contributing $10,000 or more.

But it does not have the support of 10 Republicans who would be needed to join the Democrats to overcome the 60-vote threshold needed to bring legislation to the Senate floor.

Schumer said every senator now faced a choice to “vote to bring transparency to our elections — remove the veil from this dark money that the public hates, that’s cascading into our elections — or stand on the side of dark money.”

The New York Times reported in January however that Democratic-allied donors had matched or possibly even surpassed Republicans in “dark money” spending in the 2020 election.

The daily said 15 of the most politically active non-profit organizations aligned with Democrats had handed over more than $1.5 billion in 2020 — compared to around $900 million spent by a comparable sample on the Republican side.

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