Tens of Million in Mystery Money Funded Final Weeks of Midterm Ads


The 2018 elections smashed records for overall midterms spending and for spending by independent political groups. But voters won’t know the sources of a significant portion of that money, which funded TV and radio ads, mailers, phone banking and more, until December. 

That’s because federal campaign finance laws allow political groups to file reports on a periodic basis. The most recent required report from active committees covered a period through Oct. 17, and the next one isn’t due until Dec. 6, meaning that donations to spending groups after Oct. 17 won’t be revealed until weeks after the election.

Meanwhile, outside political groups often spend the most money in the weeks just before Election Day. Sludge has found that super PACs alone accepted and spent at least $87 million in undisclosed donations since Oct. 18, according to Federal Election Commission data as of Nov. 9

“When donors aren’t reported until after Election Day, voters are deprived of information about who is trying to influence them,” Brendan Fischer, director of federal reform at the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center, told Sludge. “Political operatives are growing more sophisticated at exploiting reporting schedules and legal loopholes to delay disclosure. Congress could fix this by requiring super PACs to disclose donors who write big checks in the final weeks before Election Day.”

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