Press Release: MapLight Launches “Dark Money Watch” to Highlight Rise of Undisclosed Political Spending

MapLight Launches “Dark Money Watch” to Highlight Rise of Undisclosed Political Spending

New Analysis Finds 60 Percent of Politically Active Social Welfare Organizations Were Created Since Citizens United Ruling

New Website:

BERKELEY, CA – MapLight, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization that tracks money in politics, announced the launch of Dark Money Watch, a new website to highlight the rise of undisclosed political spending, known as “dark money,” in U.S. elections. The website will serve as a central hub for information on dark money, including descriptions of how undisclosed political spending works, possible solutions, recent news coverage, profiles of key dark money groups and tools to research their expenditures.

A new MapLight analysis posted on Dark Money Watch finds that 60 percent of all politically active social welfare organizations in the United States were created after the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling.  

Read the full analysis about the rise of politically active social welfare organizations here:

Along with super PACs, social welfare organizations are an increasingly powerful force in elections as they can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money on ads and other efforts to influence voters.  Unlike super PACs, social welfare groups do not have to disclose their donors. Since 1939, the IRS has granted tax-exempt status to 3,867 politically active nonprofits, 2,316 of which were formed in the six years following Citizens United.

In recent election cycles following influential court rulings, more and more spending has been generated by groups that do not disclose their donors.  In the 2012 election cycle, spending from these groups eclipsed $300 million, and is now more than double the amount it was at this point during the last presidential election. Given the lack of transparency around dark money groups, it’s difficult to predict the amount of dark money that will be spent in the 2016 elections.

“Dark money undermines our democracy by depriving voters the ability to know who’s influencing their elected officials,” said Daniel G. Newman, Co-Founder and President of MapLight. “Many journalists, organizations and researchers have done vital and illuminating work in the name of transparency – but until now, there has not been a central hub for citizens to track and learn about the latest dark money spending.”

Dark Money Watch includes original reporting from MapLight, as well as resources provided by the Center for Responsive Politics, the Political TV Ad Archive and the Sunlight Foundation, among others.

About MapLight
MapLight is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization that tracks money in politics. More information about MapLight can be found here.

# # #

Media Contact

Phone: 510-868-0894