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ICYMI: Cunningham Decries Dark Money, But Benefits From New Dark Money Ads

We wanted to flag a recent article that highlights how Joe Cunningham, who has touted his opposition to “dark money” in the past, has now refused to denounce the help of a dark money group which is already airing factually incorrect ads against his Republican opponents. 

It is clear that Joe Cunningham is only against dark money when it is politically convenient to do so. It is past time for Cunningham to get off the fence and actually tell voters in the Lowcountry whether he will continue to accept the help of dark money groups or whether he will flip-flop back to his earlier position that decries the use of such money and groups.

In Case You Missed It…. 

Cunningham Decries Dark Money, But Benefits From New Dark Money Ads

Washington Free Beacon
Todd Shepherd
August 12, 2019

Ads from nonprofit highlight two Republican challengers South Carolina congressman Joe Cunningham (D.) denounced “dark money” in his run for Congress in 2018, but in the 2020 cycle a dark money group has already announced they will enter the race to buoy his reelection efforts. “We’ve run this entire campaign without taking one cent from PACs or special interests,” Cunningham tweeted in September of 2018. “Dark money is poisoning our politics but this ruling is a step in the right direction. There’s much more to do and I’m ready to get to work.”

Last Monday the South Carolina Post and Courier reported that a group called 314 Action is already laying plans to defend Cunningham’s seat for an election that’s still 15 months away.

“For us, Joe Cunningham is one of our front-line candidates, and we are going to make sure we do everything we can do to defend his seat,” Josh Morrow, executive director of 314 Action, was quoted as saying by the Post and Courier.

“It’s no secret the Republicans are targeting this race as an opportunity for them. They’re going to spend heavily to try and beat Joe. We’re going to spend equally as much to ensure Joe gets elected.” 314 Action has a standard political action committee which discloses its donors (the 314 Action Fund), but also has a 501(c)4 which can engage in political spending without the same kind of disclosure.

The group, named for the first three numbers of pi, said it hopes to become the “EMILY’s List of scientists.” Because of the (c)4 group’s IRS designation, 314 Action does not have to disclose donors. “But 314 Action plans to raise $5 million to $7 million for current candidates, and it will be impossible to know where the bulk of the money is coming from,” a report in Scientific American detailed in the spring of 2018. Cunningham’s campaign did not return a request for comment from the WashingtonFree Beacon as to whether he would denounce or disown such help, given his pronounced stance on dark money from last year.

The 314 Action video ad reported on by the Post and Courier does not name Cunningham directly or show his image. It does mention two Republicans who have announced their candidacy for the party’s nomination to challenge Cunningham next year.

Federal law prohibits coordination between a group like 314 Action and the Cunningham campaign, and no evidence suggests any coordination has taken place.

It is standard operating procedure for ‘dark money’ 501(c)4 groups to focus their communications on the candidates they hope will be defeated. …… The sense of contradiction around Cunningham’s denouncing of dark money yet receiving parallel assistance from a dark money group is analogous to another congressional race in neighboring North Carolina…….

On a much larger scale, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee recently established a dark money (c)4 arm of their political work to aid Democrat candidates for the House. However, earlier this year, House Democrats also introduced a bill aimed at increasing disclosure of political money through (c)4 nonprofits. 

Read the full article here.