Magazine article Politics Magazine

Whose Money ... and Where's It Going?

Magazine article Politics Magazine

Whose Money ... and Where's It Going?

Article excerpt

Soon after George W. Bush's re-election in 2004, wealthy Democratic donors from across the country, dispirited and frustrated, scrambled to understand why their efforts to retake the White House had failed--and just how they could utilize their considerable means to help elect Democrats moving forward.

Out of the ruins sprouted two organizations: Catalist, a voter data firm headed by Democratic operative Harold Ickes, and the Democracy Alliance, an investment partnership devoted to progressive politics. These organizations, with the aid of big-money contributors like billionaire activist George Soros, sought to counter what have traditionally been perceived as Republican and conservative advantages in voter data and political infrastructure. But as campaign finance laws have grown increasingly restrictive in recent years, concerns have surfaced over whether such entities are little more than a loophole for funneling large amounts of soft money into the political process. While unrestricted political contributions can't be steered towards individual candidates or to the national parties, taxable groups like Catalist and the Democracy Alliance could theoretically introduce large, anonymous contributions into the process without adhering to FEC regulations or having to reveal their investors.

"Such anonymous funding means it is hard for journalists and others to identify possibly undue influence by connecting an investor with the actions of a particular public official," says Lloyd Mayer of Notre Dame Law School, an expert on election law. …

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