The Biden presidential campaign was boosted by a record-breaking inflow of dark money, which essentially gave the challenger the upper hand against former President Trump. Contributions from anonymous donors and unknown groups backing him accounted for $145 million, according to data. The role of dark money in the latest presidential campaign was so unprecedented that the "public will never have a full accounting of who helped him win the White House," Bloomberg has reported.
Overall, Biden raised $1.5 billion in the presidential campaign, which was itself a record for a challenger. However, the surge of dark money was in stark contrast against the Democrats' long-held view against this sort of funding.
While a huge chunk of Biden donors remained anonymous, President Trump received only $28.4 million in dark money. The earlier record for campaign dark money was in favor of losing presidential candidate Mitt Romeny, who received $113 million in unaccounted donations in 2012.
Here's what Bloomberg says about the Democrat's stated position on dark money in campaign funds: "Democrats have said they want to ban dark money as uniquely corrupting, since it allows supporters to quietly back a candidate without scrutiny. Yet in their effort to defeat Trump in 2020, they embraced it."
Election watchers agree that dark money helped Biden in a big way. "He benefited from it," Larry Noble, a former general counsel at the Federal Election Commission, told the agency. Meanwhile, a Biden spokesman did not respond to a request for comments.
Campaigns can accept up to $2,800 from individual donors. In Biden funds, as much as $318.6 million came from donors who contributed less than $200 each while the rest of the funds came from big donors who are entitled to donate as much as $825,000.
Anonymous Forces Influence Decision Makers
While big donors will have direct access to the decision makers anonymous donors too wield the same clout in the new administration. However, the crucial difference is that while the public knows which big donors are behind a presidential candidate's success, they are in the dark about the anonymous forces that helped elect a president.
This is a worrying matter for election reform advocates. "The whole point of dark money is to avoid public disclosure while getting private credit ... It's only dark money to the public," says Meredith McGehee, executive director of Issue One, which champions paring down influence of money in politics.
In a glaring example of the role of dark money in Biden's win, Priorities USA Action Fund used $26 million in funds originally donated to its nonprofit arm for Biden's campaign. The super PAC was Biden's designated vehicle for outside spending. The catch is that the campaign does not have to disclose who the donors were.
Bloomberg continues: "Donors who want to avoid disclosure can give to political nonprofits, like Defending Democracy Together, which spent $15.6 million backing Biden, and aren't required to disclose their contributors to the FEC. Donors can also give money to a nonprofit that in turn gives the money to a super-PAC, like Priorities USA did. Candidates and their campaigns can't coordinate spending with such groups under federal law."