The role of ‘dark money groups’ — legally called ‘social welfare nonprofits’ — in elections has enabled anonymous donations without political repercussions. One can donate to their hearts content to support a variety of causes which — were they publicly disclosed — could do direct harm to a person or company’s reputation, business, or employment. As with anonymous trolls on the internet, the feeling of invisibility — that they could never be caught — has driven these dark money groups to ever more extreme positions. Now, a Montana court’s decision may destroy these dark money groups’ ability to preserve their donors anonymity entirely.
The reason why these groups have been able to operate anonymously is partly due to laws prohibiting coordination between them and actual political entities, such as PACs, parties, or campaigns. Because these groups advocate issues, not particular candidates, they were allowed to keep their donors anonymous. When the Citizens United Supreme Court decision opened up the floodgates, unprecedented amounts of money flooded the system. Now, this handy money=laundering system may now be facing elimination.