Six of the top 10 super PACs active in the 2012 elections have received money from untraceable sources, including nonprofits and shell corporations, according to a report released today by two progressive advocacy groups.
“Super PACs provide an avenue for secret money to influence elections,” states the report, titled “Auctioning Democracy,” released by Demos and the U.S. PIRG Education Fund. Since 2010, 6.4 percent of the itemized contributions underwriting super PACs could not be traced to their original source, the report found
The sources of untraceable money going to super PACs included 501(c)(4) social welfare groups, which face no disclosure requirements, and shell corporations, which appear to “exist not to conduct regular business but rather simply to necessitate an extra layer of research to discover the true source of contributed funds,” according to the report. A third source of untraceable donations was money transfers from one super PAC to another, the report stated, in cases where the super PAC making the contribution had itself received funding from one or more nonprofits.
The report also spotlighted the large role of wealthy donors and corporations in underwriting super PACs, which were ushered in by the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling to lift restrictions on direct corporate and union campaign spending.