A Democratic political group funded by dark money nonprofits poured another six figures into a super PAC backing Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign last month, newly released financial disclosure records show.
The donations were reported just a day after Clinton defended Super PAC support for her campaign at Thursday evening’s Democratic presidential debate.
Clinton likened that support to outside spending on President Barack Obama’s behalf, but experts say she has pushed the envelope further than any presidential candidate in the post-Citizens United era.
Fair Share Action’s contributions are just the latest given to pro-Clinton PACS: It donated $1 million last year to Priorities USA Action, another Super PAC supporting the former secretary of state.
The sources of those funds are nearly impossible to trace. Super PACs are required to disclose their financial contributors, but in Fair Share Action’s case, those contributors are all 501(c)(4) "dark money" groups that are allowed to keep their donors secret.
Fair Share Action has reported only two donors since 2015: Fair Share Inc., its dark-money arm; and Environment America, Inc., another dark-money group.
The two groups donated a combined $1.1 million to Fair Share Action in a period of five days last June.
Fair Share Action and its two donors are all affiliated with the Public Interest Network, a web of political and policy groups that support Democratic political candidates at the federal and state levels.
Clinton rival Sen. Bernie Sanders on Thursday raised the issue of dark money support for Super PACs, which allows explicitly political groups to obscure the sources of funds they spend on electioneering activities.
"Let's talk about super PACs and 501(c)(4)s, money which is completely undisclosed," Sanders said. "Where does the money come from? Do we really feel confident about a candidate saying that she's going to bring change in America when she is so dependent on big money interests?"
Clinton defended her third-party supporters by claiming that President Obama has engaged in similar practices.
"President Obama had a super PAC when he ran. President Obama took tens of millions of dollars from contributors," Clinton said.
While Obama did rely on Super PAC support despite disavowing recently the loosening of campaign finance laws, experts say Clinton has stretched the bounds of campaign finance law further than any presidential candidate since the Supreme Court’s landmark Citizens United decision.
Correct the Record, the group that Fair Share Action began supporting last month, has been central to the controversy over Clinton’s financial practices.
Super PACs are generally prohibited from coordinating with campaigns, but Correct the Record maintains that its Internet-only communications strategy exempts it from that prohibition.
The group, which is affiliated with pro-Clinton operative David Brock’s advocacy network, uses its website and other online media to push back against Clinton’s critics.
The Supreme Court’s decision in that case overturned laws that prohibited a nonprofit group from airing a documentary critical of Clinton within 30 days of a primary election.