Toxic Contributions Foul Democracy’s Air

The photo of Paris, below, gripped by a week-long smog could as well be of the air of Democracy in the United States.  In one more report of hidden financial corruption, but an especially damning one, Nicholas Confessore at the NY Times, shines a light through the smog in Utah.

It is the nightmare scenario for those who worry that the modern campaign finance system has opened up new frontiers of political corruption: A candidate colludes with wealthy corporate backers and promises to defend their interests if elected. The companies spend heavily to elect the candidate, but hide the money by funneling it through a nonprofit group. And the main purpose of the nonprofit appears to be getting the candidate elected.

But according to investigators, exactly such a plan is unfolding in an extraordinary case in Utah, a state with a cozy political establishment, where business holds great sway and there are no limits on campaign donations.

Public records, affidavits and a special legislative report released last week offer a strikingly candid view inside the world of political nonprofits, where big money sluices into campaigns behind a veil of secrecy. The proliferation of such groups — and what campaign watchdogs say is their widespread, illegal use to hide donations — are at the heart of new rules now being drafted by the Internal Revenue Service to rein in election spending by nonprofit “social welfare” groups, which unlike traditional political action committees do not have to disclose their donors.

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