Schumer's Shell Game: Dark Money Group Disbands Then Resurfaces To Dump Cash into Swing States

Schumer-linked PAC latest instance of Democrats relying on dark money while claiming to oppose it

Chuck Schumer (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
July 5, 2024

A new dark money group that has been blanketing swing state airwaves with ads supporting vulnerable Democratic senators has taken steps to conceal its ties to Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer’s (D., N.Y.) super PAC, according to a Washington Free Beacon review of tax records.

The 501(c)4 nonprofit group, Duty and Honor, has invested heavily in swing states this election cycle on ads casting vulnerable Democratic senators as bipartisan champions of border security. The group invested $2.4 million in Ohio in May on an ad campaign painting Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) as an ally of former president Donald Trump and his border security measures, and has run similar campaigns supporting Sens. Bob Casey (D., Pa.) and Jacky Rosen (D., Nev.).

Duty and Honor could be easily conflated with a separate dark money group also called Duty and Honor that spent more than $58 million in 2020 supporting Democratic senators across the country. That version of Duty and Honor disclosed in its IRS tax returns that it was related to and shared several senior employees with Schumer’s Senate Majority PAC and its constellation of affiliated nonprofits, including Majority Forward, a dark money juggernaut that has raised more than $278 million since 2019.

But the Duty and Honor active during the 2020 elections abruptly dissolved and ceased to exist in April 2021. One year later, in May 2022, Senate Majority PAC president J.B. Poersch filed paperwork with the Washington, D.C., Department of Licensing and Consumer Protection to launch the second iteration of Duty and Honor, which has since spent nearly $19 million on television ads supporting Democrats in swing states, according to AdImpact data reviewed by the Free Beacon.

Only this time, the new Duty and Honor is representing itself to the IRS as a standalone organization.

The new group is led by the same core group of leaders that ran the first iteration of Duty and Honor and shares several overlapping board members with the Senate Majority PAC and Majority Forward. But the new Duty and Honor reported to the IRS that it had no related organizations in its latest available tax return covering its 2022 fiscal year, rendering it far more difficult for the public to verify its ties to Schumer’s network of super PACs and dark money groups.

The first iteration of Duty and Honor was largely funded by Schumer’s Majority Forward. The Free Beacon was unable to identify any of the new Duty and Honor’s donors.

"Talk about darkness in politics," Capital Research Center president Scott Walter said. "These folks have popped up a ‘dark money’ group whose name and ads imply it represents bipartisanship, centrism, and border hawk policies. Yet their group is actually a subsidiary of the reelection crusade of one party, not known for border control, and the group has filed federal forms that appear to have failed to disclose its political ties."

It’s unclear why Schumer-world shut down the first iteration of Duty and Honor in 2021. It doesn’t appear the IRS ever officially sanctioned that group to operate as a nonprofit—it reported in its final tax return in 2021 that its tax-exempt application was still pending. Duty and Honor did not return a request for comment.

The efforts by Schumer-world to conceal its control over Duty and Honor is emblematic of the uncomfortable dichotomy between Democrats and dark money in politics.

On one hand, Democratic politicians say dark money poses an existential threat to democracy. President Joe Biden said as much in 2022, and politicians such as Sen. Jon Tester (D., Mont.) who have benefited from Schumer-aligned dark money groups have proposed laws to ban such groups.

On the other hand, Democrats have dominated Republicans in dark money spending for the better part of a decade. Since the 2018 election cycle, Democratic groups have benefited more from dark money than Republicans, OpenSecrets reported in 2023. During the 2022 federal midterm elections, liberal groups raked in $316 million from dark money groups, while conservative committees brought in just $263 million.