There has been plenty of hang wringing on the Left lately about so-called “dark money,” cash spent on political campaigns by undisclosed donors. Andy Kroll over at Mother Jones posted a piece a few days ago which breathlesly warns of “5 Signs the Dark-Money Apocalypse Is Upon Us.” Most of the fuss centers around cash spent via 501(c)(4) and (c)(6) organizations. Donors to such outfits are not subject to the same disclosure laws as those who pony up directly to campaigns or to political action committees. To be sure, opinions vary as to whether obscure political giving should be considered kosher. But would you be shocked if I told you that the Left has taken to using “dark money” as a term of art to discourage donations to conservative charities?
A fresh piece from yours truly over at National Review Online explores the Left’s campaign against philanthropic privacy. It works like this: donors to any 501(c)(3) public charities don’t have to disclose their donations. Donors can also give their money to a special kind of 501(c)(3) called a donor advised fund, which works as a sort of charitable bank account. They give their money and advise which charities should get some of the cash. While the funds are required to disclose their donations, their donors are not. Just like donors to any 501(c)(3) from Center to American Progress to Cato. This sort of philanthropic privacy is an important civic tradition in America. Just ask any donors to the NAACP who gave during the Civil Rights Era.
So what’s the problem here? Well, our friends on the Left don’t like what some donations fund. Kroll wrote a piece early last year branding DonorsTrust, a conservative-leaning donor advised fund, as the “Dark Money ATM of the Conservative Movement.” If you point out to liberals that groups left, right, and center are entitled to the same philanthropic privacy, they’ll claim the is that the right uses their money to fund nasty things like pushing back against global warming hysteria. Just look at this over-the-top interview on the lefty TV show Democracy Now! in which reporter Suzanne Goldenberg from The Guardian compares DonorsTrust’s donors to those who claim you can get HIV from a toilet seat. While everyone should be able to enjoy philanthropic privacy regardless of their political stripes, the Left wants special treatment. Their smug defense, as usual, is that we’re right because we’re left.
And wouldn’t you know it? The champions of “transparency” on the Left weren’t so transparent when I called asking questions. Mother Jones’ reporting on the subject, for example, is funded by the Puffin Foundation, whose founder Perry Rosenstein told the Wall Street Journal of his deep seated animosity towards “right-wingers.” I wanted to find out whether Mr. Rosenstein believes “right-wingers” are entitled to equal treatment under the law, but he declined an interview request via an e-mail from a representative of Puffin. And no one at the Tides Foundation, probably the Left’s biggest donor advised fund, would even return my calls or e-mails. Advocates for transparency, or cynical pushers of gotcha politics?
I hope you will take a few moments from your day and check out my NRO piece. I spoke with DonorsTrust’s CEO, Whitney Ball, and some of her donors to learn more about the real reasons people like to give in private.