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Joe Biden and Democrats are wallowing in dark money — and hypocrisy

Joe Biden and Democrats are wallowing in dark money — and hypocrisy
© Greg Nash

Democrats hate “Big Money” in politics, unless they get more of it than Republicans.

On the second day of confirmation hearings for President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney BarrettAmy Coney BarrettFacebook, Twitter CEOs to testify before Senate Judiciary Committee on Nov. 17 Finger-pointing picks up in COVID-19 relief fight McConnell tees up Barrett nomination, setting up rare weekend session MORE, Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseDemocrats, gun control groups attack NRA for efforts to reshape judiciary Hillicon Valley: Threatening emails raise election concerns | Quibi folds after raising nearly B | Trump signs law making it a crime to hack voting systems Trump signs legislation making hacking voting systems a federal crime MORE (D-R.I.) entertained the nation with a lengthy treatise on how “dark money” is corroding our political system. He spoke nonstop for 27 minutes, lecturing Judge Barrett on the supposedly nefarious Republican plot to put conservative judges on the nation’s courts. He asked not a single question of the nominee.

It turns out that Whitehouse had already sprung his presentation, complete with charts and diagrams, on Judge Barrett during his pre-hearing interview. So, the senator’s showboating was not to learn her opinions on matters of the law but instead to show the American people how righteously angry Whitehouse is about the evils of “dark money.”

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For those confused by the term, “dark money” describes funds given to social welfare nonprofits set up under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code, which do not have to reveal their donors. Those groups can use their funds to influence a campaign but are not allowed to coordinate their efforts with a candidate.    

It was refreshing to hear Whitehouse rail about dark money in politics; the topic used to be a hot one for Democrats. Lately, not so much. Why is that? Because starting in 2018, Democrats hauled in a lot more such funding than Republicans. In effect, they won the “dark money” race, and never looked back.   

Denouncing Big Money – dark and light – has been a staple talking point for Democrats, including Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenFacebook, Twitter CEOs to testify before Senate Judiciary Committee on Nov. 17 Sanders hits back at Trump's attack on 'socialized medicine' Senate GOP to drop documentary series days before election hitting China, Democrats over coronavirus MORE, for years. The former vice president, for instance, joined Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenFinal debate: War Admiral vs. Seabiscuit Biden defends his health plan from Trump attacks Progressives blast Biden plan to form panel on Supreme Court reform MORE (D-Mass.) and Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders hits back at Trump's attack on 'socialized medicine' Trump's debate performance was too little, too late Final debate: War Admiral vs. Seabiscuit MORE (I-Vt.) during the Democratic primaries last year in opposing the use of super PACs.

Biden refused to take money from such groups, until, that is, he struggled to raise campaign cash, at which point he reversed course and opened his coffers to super PAC dough.   

As did, by the way, Warren and even Sanders, who finally opened Our Revolution, which operated much like a super PAC

Democrats are, according to NBC, winning the super PAC race this cycle, taking in and spending more than the GOP. Thus, they no longer rant against those vehicles either.   

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Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSenate GOP to drop documentary series days before election hitting China, Democrats over coronavirus Democrats play defense, GOP goes on attack after Biden oil comments Quinnipiac poll finds Biden, Trump tied in Texas MORE (R-Texas) rebutted Whitehouse’s hypocrisy, pointing out that “Of the top 20 organizations spending money for political speech in the year 2016, 14 of them gave virtually all of their money to Democrats… That meant the top 20 SuperPAC donors contributed $422 million to Democrats and 189 million to Republicans.”

Cruz also noted that Whitehouse “talked about big corporate powers without acknowledging that the contributions from the Fortune 500 in this presidential election overwhelmingly favor Joe Biden and The Democrats. Without acknowledging that the contributions from Wall Street in this election overwhelmingly favor Joe Biden and the Democrats.”

Cruz is right. Biden positions himself as the candidate who will protect middle class workers from big and powerful corporate interests. But it turns out those big and powerful interests are lining up solidly behind Joe. 

At the end of September, CNN reported that “The securities and investment industry donated just $10.5 million to Trump's presidential campaign and outside groups aligned with it, according to a new tally by OpenSecrets.org. It has sent nearly five times as much cash, $51.1 million, to Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.”

Imagine that: Wall Street funding Biden over Trump by almost five to one. American workers should wonder how their interests have suddenly aligned with those of big banks and corporations.

Democrats used to think that billionaires throwing money into campaigns was a corrupting influence. Sanders proclaimed earlier this year, “We’re taking on billionaires and we’re taking on candidates funded by billionaires.” (Note that Sanders used to denounce “millionaires and billionaires” until his own assets topped seven figures.)

But nobody has “taken on” Michael BloombergMichael BloombergThe Hill's Campaign Report: 2020 spending wars | Biden looks to clean up oil comments | Debate ratings are in Biden breaks all-time television spending record Trump squeezed by cash crunch in final election sprint MORE, who pledged $100 million to help Biden win Florida.

Bloomberg’s activities in Florida included paying the fines owed by “nearly 32,000 Black and Hispanic Florida voters with felony convictions,” as reported by the Washington Post, which would allow those individuals to vote. “He saw the donations as a more cost-effective way of adding votes to the Democratic column than investing money to persuade voters who already have the right to vote,” according to a Bloomberg memo.

In other words, Bloomberg is paying fines for Black felons “where the Democratic support rate tends to be 90%-95%” because that’s more “cost-effective” than trying to convince voters that Biden has the right policies for our nation.

Wow. Wouldn’t you have thought this would create just a tiny bit of a stir? 

Of course, Bloomberg is not the only billionaire backing Biden. As of the beginning of August, Federal Election Commission reports show Biden had received money from 131 billionaires compared to only 99 giving to President Trump.

Biden’s list includes such well known left-wing political activists as George Soros and numerous Big Tech moguls such as Facebook investor Sean Parker and Twitter co-founder Ev Williams.

Biden’s running mate, Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisSanders hits back at Trump's attack on 'socialized medicine' Watch live: Biden participates in HBCU homecoming Jennifer Aniston: 'It's not funny to vote for Kanye' MORE (D-Calif.), is no slouch when it comes to picking up billionaire support either, having received campaign donations from dozens of big money donors in Silicon Valley and Hollywood.

This is all perfectly legal, and even, despite Whitehouse’s innuendos, totally ethical. If the 65,000 members of the Federalist Society decide that preserving the independence of the judiciary and protecting the country against liberal activist judges is a high priority, they are welcome to fund efforts to make that happen.

Ditto for groups such as Planned Parenthood and NARAL, which are free to support campaigns teeing up liberal judges who they believe will protect abortion rights.

The difference is this: Amy Coney Barrett, a “textualist” judge, will interpret the laws as written, as opposed to twist them to favor a popular or preconceived opinion. That is what Democrats oppose.

Liz Peek is a former partner of major bracket Wall Street firm Wertheim & Company. Follow her on Twitter @lizpeek.