There has been a 300 percent increase in “dark money” campaign spending over the last six years. An investigation into a former Utah official provides an excellent — and frightening — example of how that system can be abused.
John Swallow, a former attorney general in the state, allegedly hid money in a maze of "social welfare" nonprofit groups and PACs, Nicholas Confessore reports at The New York Times. Those groups ultimately contributed to his campaign.
Public records, affidavits and a special legislative report released last week look at how Utah’s political nonprofits work. Swallow, a former state attorney general, appears to have taken hundreds of thousands of dollars from the payday lending industry through various nonprofit organizations. He allegedly employed a strategy of using those nonprofits to collect contributions that were then passed to political action committees, so that anyone looking up the contributors would see the name of the nonprofit and not the actual donor.
One of the shadow money groups was Utah’s Prosperity Foundation, which advertised itself as a PAC for Mark Shurtleff, the sitting Utah attorney general. But documents indicate that it was also intended as a way for Swallow to get money from industries under increased scrutiny from regulators, and whose interests Swallow advocated, like payday loan companies and telemarketing firms.