A liberal group operating in the shadows of electoral politics has spent a massive amount of money attacking Republican incumbents for their votes on healthcare and taxes, making them one of the top political advertisers in the country. They’re called the Sixteen Thirty Fund and they’ve set up several front groups, including organizations like Floridians for a Fair Shake, Michigan Families for Economic Prosperity and North Carolinians for a Fair Economy.
No matter their name, the money comes from the same source.
Added together, the Sixteen Thirty Fund groups have been among the most prolific political advertisers of 2018. They have aired 6,885 broadcast TV ads since Jan. 1, according to Advertising Analytics, a TV tracking firm — more than the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and almost as many as Americans for Prosperity, two of the five biggest nonprofit political advertisers focused on the House and Senate in the first half of this year.
The network, which has spent over $4.6 million on TV alone, has also been one of the top political advertisers in the country on Facebook, according to a POLITICO analysis of data from the social media company’s new political ad archive.
It should be noted that both sides utilize groups like this for electioneering. But only one side rails against “dark money” in politics and it isn’t Republicans.
The groups can accept unlimited contributions but do not have to reveal their donors. Tax forms outlining even the most basic details about the nonprofits’ fundraising and spending this year don’t need to be filed until the end of 2019.
This progressive nonprofit network is not the biggest out there — American Action Network, the conservative nonprofit aligned with House Speaker Paul Ryan, raised $41.9 million in its most recent fiscal year, including $24.6 million from a single secret donor, and it has spent millions promoting GOP legislation and members who voted for those bills. But the combined efforts of the Sixteen Thirty Fund groups have played an outsize role shaping the 2018 field.
I see nothing wrong with groups like this, but I would prefer a little more transparency. Instead of reporting to the FEC, why not post the names and companies of contributors online? This has been an idea that’s been around for several years and would satisfy the goal of transparency while allowing everyone to make their own mind up about the issue of influence.
It remains to be seen how effective a new group like this will be. But it’s one more indication that the left is entering this last 100 days of the campaign fully funded and loaded for bear.