LA Times: Democrats following Republicans into field of undisclosed donors

Independent political organizations that can accept unlimited and undisclosed contributions are being formed by Democrats, who rebuked Republicans for the use of such groups in the 2010 midterm election

April 7, 2011- Democrats putting together new independent political organizations for the 2012 campaign are embracing a model that will allow them to conceal their donors — the very tactic for which they criticized Republicans in 2010.

Majority PAC, a new group aimed at electing Democrats to the Senate, and American Bridge 21st Century, which will serve as a research hub, are being organized as so-called super political action committees that can raise unlimited amounts of money from contributors whose donations are reported to the Federal Election Commission. But both are also affiliated with nonprofit 501(c)(4) social welfare groups that can raise money from undisclosed donors and give money directly to super PACs.

The same dual structure is being considered by Bill Burton and Sean Sweeney, two former White House aides who are likely to launch their own independent expenditure effort in support of President Obama's reelection, according to people familiar with the plans.

As a spokesman for Obama, Burton repeatedly hammered Republican groups for their lack of transparency in 2010. He declined to comment.

Hari Sevugan, a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee, said Obama had fought for legislation requiring that outside groups disclose their donors, and that despite "the political advantages the current system allows for," he would continue to do so.

The move toward using 501(c)(4) groups reflects a widespread consensus among Democrats that they were insufficiently aggressive in raising large donations last year after the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision. That ruling allowed independent groups to accept contributions from corporations and unions.

It is also confirmation that Democrats, including Obama, failed to sway voters with their attacks on the sources of the money that financed GOP-allied groups formed after the high court ruling.

"In 2010 … we sat on our hands in protest and got stomped on the airwaves and at the ballot box," said Chris Harris, a spokesman for American Bridge. "Politics is a prize fight, and when you're getting pounded in the ring, you don't complain to the ref, you fight back."

Campaign finance reform advocates decried the development, saying they would press Democrats to reveal their funding sources.

FULL STORY HERE: 


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