Money and Democracy

Published — January 29, 2016

Democratic super PAC aided by secret money

New nonprofit helping Senate Majority PAC offset staff, office costs


A super PAC leading Democratic efforts to retake the U.S. Senate is sharing resources with a new, allied nonprofit group that will not have to reveal its donors.

In a campaign finance disclosure report filed Friday, Senate Majority PAC reported receiving more than $300,000 in reimbursements for staff, office space and other expenses during the second half of last year from a group called Majority Forward.

Screenshot from an ad paid for by the Senate Majority PAC. Youtube

In response to questions from the Center for Public Integrity, Senate Majority PAC spokesman Shripal Shah described Majority Forward as “an allied organization” with “shared office space, shared staff.”

Majority Forward will be engaging in nonpartisan voter registration work, he said in an email.

The two groups share an address, and Washington, D.C., corporate records show Majority Forward was incorporated in June by Perkins Coie lawyer Marc Elias, who represents Senate Majority PAC.

Elias, who is also general counsel for the campaign of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, said Friday night he could not immediately comment.

Shah declined Friday evening to answer additional questions about who Majority Forward’s contributors are and whether the group had any staff or resources independent of Senate Majority PAC, or to provide additional details about its voter registration work.

Senate Majority PAC advertises itself as a “transparent” organization, and as a super PAC, it files regular reports with the Federal Election Commission disclosing its donors and expenses.

But this isn’t the first time it has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from a so-called “dark money” nonprofit that engages in politics but doesn’t reveal the source of its funds.

For example, Patriot Majority USA, a liberal nonprofit organized under the same section of the tax code as Majority Forward — 501(c)(4) — gave it more than $500,000 during the 2014 election cycle for expenses such as salaries and insurance.

Democratic presidential candidates Clinton and Bernie Sanders have both been highly critical of the influence of untraceable money in politics.

“We have to end the flood of secret, unaccountable money that is distorting our elections, corrupting our political system and drowning out the voices of too many everyday Americans,” Clinton said in a statement posted prominently on her website.

Sanders, for his part, blasts the “huge piles of undisclosed cash” in play in the 2016 election and wants “wealthy individuals and corporations who make large campaign contributions to disclose where their money is going.”

Senate Majority PAC was the dominant Democratic group during the 2014 election cycle, and ran about 45,000 ads in Senate races — more than any other non-candidate committee group.

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