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Illinois Policy Institute among groups opposing “dark money” reform bill

Thursday, Mar 16, 2017

* Press release…

As Illinois’ finances deteriorate and gridlock prevails in Springfield, dark money groups spend millions of dollars to influence elections and public policy without disclosing the sources of their funding.

That frequently leaves taxpayers and elected officials in the dark about a group’s true motivations for supporting or opposing legislation or policies.

Senate Bill 2089, sponsored by Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park), would require greater transparency of politically active dark money groups by requiring them to register as political committees and disclose their donors.

“Accountability for political donations is vitally important in our system of government and elections,” Harmon said. “For too long, dark money groups have been able to hide behind the cloak of their nonprofit status and conceal the true intent of their work, which is to raise unlimited amounts of money and peddle political influence, unbeknownst to the average voter and taxpayer.

Harmon noted that the groups in question are not the charities and civic organizations for whom tax-exempt status was intended.

“These are political groups organized specifically to take advantage of nonprofit protections and hide their political activity,” he said.

Harmon added that as Illinois continues to see unprecedented spending by candidates and outside groups seeking to influence elections, it’s important for voters that the General Assembly closes loopholes that allow runaway spending by dark money groups.

“I think nearly all of us can all agree that a flood of secret political donations by billionaires and corporations is not good for our state,” Harmon said.

Senate Bill 2089 advanced out of the Senate’s Executive Committee in an 11-3 vote Wednesday.

Numerous good-government organizations indicated support for the measure, including the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, the Better Government Association, Illinois PIRG, and the 2,700 members of the League of Women Voters of Illinois.

Only two organizations indicated they are opposed to the measure, although they did not send representatives to Wednesday’s hearing to explain why: the Illinois Policy Institute and Americans For Prosperity. Both are dark money groups that would be required to disclose their contributions and expenditures when they bill becomes law.

The bill is here.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - A Jack - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 9:33 am:

    Well yes, the dark money groups likely would oppose this bill. I hope it passes, but there are plenty of politicians who benefit from dark money groups and I doubt those politicians have the guts or the ethics to stand up for more transparency.

  2. - PublicServant - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 9:33 am:

    Because Rauner and the Kock Bros. among others like to pretend that the groups are actually non-partisan, if the partisans become known, that would expose the lie. Duh!

  3. - PublicServant - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 9:34 am:

    Err, Koch. heh

  4. - Rocky Rosi - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 9:34 am:

    This bill is not good. Why don’t we add disclosure for who citizens vote for too???

  5. - Juice - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 9:38 am:

    So Rocky, I assume your position is that money equals speech. But those speakers don’t want people to know who they are? Is this the online trolling of campaign finance?

  6. - PublicServant - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 9:44 am:

    We don’t need to know who voted for who, but we do need to know who’s trying to influence the who that who votes for.

  7. - Archiesmom - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 9:46 am:

    Sunshine is always better in the political process. For us, that is. Not always for those who like to live in the dark.

  8. - MacombMike - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 10:01 am:

    This bill would require Planned Parenthood to disclose their donors too (something they don’t seem to do at present). Seems like people donating to PP, in many cases, wouldn’t want it to be disclosed.

  9. - MacombMike - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 10:04 am:

    Not talking about their PAC which provides support/opposition in elections. Their advocacy arm which may lobby on bills.

  10. - Generic Drone - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 10:07 am:

    Influencing our political process with dark money is the game of the new millenium.Citizens United has destroyed our democracy.

  11. - Grandson of Man - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 10:07 am:

    That the IPI and the Koch brothers oppose this almost says enough about who’s behind these propaganda networks.

    Almost. We need to shine the light of freedom on the funders, to see who they are. For all their screaming about freedom, they sure are secretive.

  12. - FRA - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 10:08 am:

    Not only would Planned Parenthood or Illinois Family Action have to disclose, so would Citizen Action or any group that tries to educate the public on how their legislators are voting.

    It’s another way for politicians to silence anyone who would hold them accountable.

  13. - City Zen - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 10:19 am:

    Would Rainbow/PUSH be impacted? They don’t even file a Form 990, something IPI and Planned Parenthood both are required to do.

  14. - Huh? - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 10:19 am:

    IPI wants to hide the money they got from 1.4% so Illinois won’t know they are really a partisan mouthpiece? Why aren’t I surprised?

  15. - riightt - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 10:24 am:

    This is a great bill for conservatives! You can finally out Planned Parenthood, Citizen action and all those libs! All of that money that my right wing internet friends say George Soros is throwing around will surely come out too! Surely Boss Madigan has some hidden cash out there. Let’s go Rauner Republicans, get this done!

  16. - wordslinger - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 10:24 am:

    Geez, the Straw Men makers are busy.

    Did Planned Parenthood, or any other groups, file an objection, other than IPI and AFP? So why bring them into the mix, other than for a lame attempt at obfuscation?

    Dark money allowed a guy like Bruce Rauner to bankroll negative ads against Schock,, Dillard, Rutherford and Brady then deny he had anything to do with it.

    The mystery Cincinatti lawyer did the dirty work, while Rauner pretended to be Mr. Clean.

    That’s the opposite of holding politicians accountable.

  17. - Precinct Captain - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 10:25 am:

    Planned Parenthood performs political action under its affiliate Planned Parenthood Action Fund, organized and managed separately from the health services organization. If you’ve ever worked for a candidate endorsed by Planned Parenthood they demand you use specific language referring to the political advocacy group and not “Planned Parenthood” or PPFA.

  18. - illini - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 10:34 am:

    I did look at the bill and am a little confused. In part it states - ” A political committee shall disclose on the quarterly statement the name, address, and occupation of any person who collects or accepts contributions from at least 5 persons in the aggregate of $3,000 or more..”

    This is slightly different from the D-2 quarterly reports required from candidates and political committees registered with the ISBE. I have been filing these reports for years and know the threshold for reporting individual contributions.

    Those non-profit organizations ( Planned Parenthood, etc ) should not, and according to the way I read the bill, be required to report every small contribution of $50 or $100. And this is the way it should be.

    Yet, most individuals who may give or who would give $1000’s and more should not be ashamed to have their identity known.

    Sunshine and transparency should be required of all political committees.

  19. - BK Bro - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 10:48 am:

    Would be quickly declared unconstitutional. They don’t disclose their donors because they’re restricted from direct advocacy (ie: advocating for or against the election of a specific person). They’re issue advocacy groups. That’s basic campaign finance.

  20. - Joe Bidenopolous - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 10:56 am:

    ===but there are plenty of politicians who benefit from dark money groups and I doubt those politicians have the guts or the ethics to stand up for more transparency.===

    Hmmm, I wonder to which party these politicians belong…

  21. - FRA - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 10:58 am:

    The bill would also apply to all of the Association’s that lobby in the statehouse if they engage in any activities described in the bill. So, if for instance the IL Assoc of Retired Teachers put a scorecard up as part of a Facebook ad, they would have to disclose their donors.

    Basically any group that has an “Action” group would have to disclose if they engage in the described activities in the timeframe. Other groups impacted would be environmental groups, Chambers of Commerce, all unions, and basically any advocacy group that isn’t a PAC.

  22. - Jane A. - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 11:03 am:

    It would be very nice indeed to see IPI (and AEI) have to register as a political committees.

    As I’m sure commenters know, there are not-entirely-current public lists of IPI donors available, but a prominent one is Donor’s Trust, which, as a donor-advised trust, doesn’t have to reveal who donates to it. So in this case the bill wouldn’t get quite as much transparency as might be desired.

    It would be refreshing to see them remove the word “independent” from their mission statement, to replace it with “partisan,” “Libertarian” or “Republican.”

  23. - Freo - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 11:08 am:

    When did anonymous speech become un-American? Our country has a long history of allowing its citizens to criticize its elected officials without the threat of intimidation by those in authority. Disclosure is for government, not citizens exercising free speech.

    You’re being naive if you think this is not just a way for politicians to silence dissent.

  24. - Amalia - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 11:08 am:

    funny, when you have the conservative Right constantly mouthing off about Deep State (my pick in the NCAA tourney) they are afraid of a little light for their money. irony much?!?

  25. - Anonymous - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 11:27 am:

    Seeiously, Project Six belongs on this list.

  26. - Chicago Cynic - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 11:29 am:

    “- Freo - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 11:08 am:

    When did anonymous speech become un-American? Our country has a long history of allowing its citizens to criticize its elected officials without the threat of intimidation by those in authority. Disclosure is for government, not citizens exercising free speech.

    You’re being naive if you think this is not just a way for politicians to silence dissent.”

    Paranoia much?

    Seriously, conservatives used to say the answer to campaign finance regulation was instant disclosure but that it should be otherwise unregulated. Now that they benefit from it, they run and hide like pathetic cowards.

  27. - illini - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 11:29 am:

    @Freo - “When did anonymous speech become un-American?”

    Are you equating “anonymous speech” with dark money?

    Or are you saying that it is OK for those groups to continue to cloak their true identity ( and major contributors ) by hiding under the guise of an anonymous organization with a Feel Good name that really is nothing more than a ruse to confuse the voters?

  28. - BK Bro - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 11:41 am:


    By legal definition, the “dark money” groups are not speaking in a way that would be subject to typical campaign finance laws, which would include disclosure. That’s why they don’t disclose donors. They’re issue advocacy groups, not political actions committees. There’s a difference.

    As far as direct political speech that can be regulated, America has a history of attempting to protect donors from the repercussions of supporting political efforts. A good example of this is how the Communist Party, Freedom Socialist Party, ad the Socialist Workers Party are all EXEMPT from disclosing their donors for fear of retribution against those donors.

  29. - A Jack - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 12:20 pm:

    The Supreme Court ruling said that campaign contributions couldn’t be limited, not that they could stay anonymous. They get away with anonymity because of a federal law allowing these organizations to register as charities. It looks like this bill attempts to fix that. I don’t care if a billionaire gives a billion in support of a candidate, but I would like to know which billionaire so I can judge his motives.

  30. - A Jack - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 12:30 pm:

    And I purposely did not name a party in my first comment. All parties have had dark money ads thrown at them. Recently Republicans were attacked over the Grand Bargain.

    This is a bipartisan issue, especially since these organizations seem to be against the compromise that makes democracy work.

    I was happy to see the bill has some bipartisan support.

  31. - Ghost - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 12:33 pm:

    Harmin should argue it helps keep foriegn entities from influencing elections by creating transparency

  32. - The Way I See It - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 12:35 pm:

    IPI cant be against it because its burdensome. After all, they have like 3 sugar daddies

  33. - Hilarious - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 1:30 pm:

    Anonymous commenters complaining about private giving. No irony here.

  34. - DuPage Saint - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 1:34 pm:

    Probably constitutional. NAACP vs Alabama
    is hardly a novel perception that compelled disclosure of affiliation with groups engaged in advocacy may constitute as effective a restraint on freedom of association as the forms of governmental action in the cases above were thought likely to produce upon the particular constitutional rights there involved. This Court has recognized the vital relationship between freedom to associate and privacy in one’s associations. When

  35. - DuPage Saint - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 1:34 pm:

    That was Uncostitional

  36. - Freo - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 1:35 pm:

    So, if a pension reform bill was coming up in Veto Session (which is not far-fetched) a few weeks after the election no group with urge people to contact their legislators by using their name to urge a No vote without triggering these reporting requirements.

    It doesn’t matter that the communication wasn’t about the election, if it happened after Labor Day it would be considered election communication. Same goes for issue advocacy communication that mentions a legislator within the 30 day window prior to the primary election, even though that is during the legislative session.

  37. - wordslinger - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 1:41 pm:

    Hilarious, you find equivalence in anonymous comments on a blog and millions in dark money for negative spots?

    Do you subscribe to such ridiculous relativism in all things?

  38. - BK Bro - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 3:51 pm:

    @ Freo

    “Same goes for issue advocacy communication that mentions a legislator within the 30 day window prior to the primary election, even though that is during the legislative session.”

    That is unconstitutional post FEC vs Wisconsin Right to Life. If that was challenged in Federal court and Illinois tried to defend it, Illinois would lose.

  39. - Baruch - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 4:12 pm:

    Makes you wonder what makes some groups want to stay in the dark doesn’t it? The IPI purchased 50 radio stations in the past to flood communities with their spin. This bill is good for Illinois.

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