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Record 'dark money' spending in 2014 midterm elections
Dark Money
This year's midterm election will be the most expensive in history, ringing up a $4 billion tab, according to the Center for Responsive Politics research site opensecrets.org. - photo by Phong Pham, istockphoto.com

This year’s midterm election will be the most expensive in history, ringing up a $4 billion tab, according to the Center for Responsive Politics’ research site opensecrets.org.

During the 2004 presidential elections cost a total of $1.9 billion in campaigning. Today’s total is double that amount spent on a midterm that, as The Washington Post quips, “almost no one is paying attention to.” And this year’s spending is “six times more than what had been spent in the 2010 midterms,” reported Open Secrets.

The estimate includes the hundreds of millions of dollars of undisclosed spending, something that Open Secrets calls “dark money.”

“We know that in the 2014 midterm cycle, three times more dark money spending has already been reported to the Federal Election Commission than at this point during the 2012 presidential campaign. In that election, 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations and 501(c)(6) trade associations, which do not have to disclose their donors to the public, spent more than $310 million,” the Center reported.

More nonprofit organizations filed under these two sections are spending money on candidate-targeted ads more than ever before, reported the Huffington Post.

They are different from Super PACs that are explicitly political and required to reveal donors and spending.

However, this election cycle, “more money is being spent on advertising by the secret donors than by ‘super PACs,’” reported the The New York Times.

“Fifty-five percent of broadcast advertising in the midterm elections has been paid for by groups that do not fully disclose their donors, according to an analysis by The New York Times of advertising data from the Campaign Media Analysis Group.”

“The major source of this undisclosed money is no surprise -- the political network run by billionaire oligarchs Charles and David Koch. Their network raised and distributed $400 million in the 2012 elections. This time around, the six groups at the center of the Koch operation (have already spent) at least $53.5 million (in September) just on candidate-specific ads,” continued the Huffington Post.

Some of the dark-money-funded ads are accused of distorting facts or outright lying about issues and candidates.

The Center for Responsive Politics and the fact-checking group politifact.com of the Tampa Bay Times revealed the lies a group called Freedom Partners -- a trade association funded by the Koch brothers -- told about Democratic Senate candidate Bruce Braley.

“The ad claims that Braley ‘takes tens of thousands from his friends in the health insurance industry’ who ‘stand to make billions’ from the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

“‘Call Bruce Braley,’ a masculine voice says in the ad. ‘Tell him: Stand with Iowa. Stop supporting Obamacare.’

“As it turns out, the accusations in the ad are false,” reported the Center.

There are people who question the ethics of anonymous campaign financing and the safety organizations feel to use other unethical tactics.

However, Tim Phillips, the president of Americans for Prosperity, said the rise of donor-protecting organizations is a response to Democratic attacks on the Koch brothers and other big money donors.

This election’s flood of secret money is “at the center of a debate over the line between free speech and corruption” and likely to impact the upcoming 2016 presidential campaign, reported The New York Times.

dsutton@deseretnews.com | Twitter: @debylene