Staff Columnist

Dark money Stacy is so disappointing

#x201c;Stacy#x201d; YouTube
“Stacy” YouTube

Stacy, just your average mom, has got a lot going on.

In fact, “Stacy” is a mom, wife and teacher who apparently lives in 11 different congressional districts across the country. At least that’s what it seems if you watch TV ads being run by American Action Network targeting Democratic members of Congress, including Iowa 1st District Rep. Abby Finkenauer.

Stacy is unhappy with Democrats in New York, Pennsylvania, Maine, New Jersey, Nevada, Virginia and Utah, simultaneously. She’s portrayed as a constituent of all of these Democrats hailing from districts carried by President Donald Trump in 2016.

“Around here, we focus on what matters, like taking care of our families” Stacy says. Or maybe figuring out where we live today.

She chides Finkenauer for voting to impeach the president instead of securing the border or solving the opioid crisis.

“It’s so disappointing,” says Finkenauer’s fake constituent.

What’s also disappointing is we really have no idea who’s bankrolling this ham-fisted fakery. We know American Action Network is spending $2.5 million on these ads nationwide, but as a “social welfare organization” under IRS rules, the network can keep its donors secret.

According to Issue One, a nonprofit pushing for campaign reforms, American Action Network is one of the country’s top 15 “dark money” groups, having raised $170 million between July 2009 and June 2017. Only about 13 percent of its donors have been identified through other tax filings, including $12 million from the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America.

In 2017, American Action Network spent $27 million on media as Congress debated Trump’s tax “reform” bill, according to tax documents chronicled by CNBC. Reporters also found that of $51 million the network raised from mid-2017 to mid-2018, $16 million came from a single unnamed donor.

American Action Network is an old friend of 1st District voters with TVs.

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In 2014, the group spent $500,000 on ads targeting Democrat Pat Murphy in his race with Republican Rod Blum. The ads accused a very angry looking Murphy of voting to spend $120,000 on flower pots as a legislative leader. A claim in the phony GOP hall of fame, along with heated sidewalks.

In 2016, the network spent $800,000 targeting Democrat Monica Vernon, including an ad portraying her as a supporter of Iranian terror because she backed the Iran nuclear deal. Now that the deal is in shreds, we can all see how much more peaceful the Mideast has become.

Yes, yes, all you what-abouters. Both sides do it.

In 2018, as Blum faced Finkenauer, he was targeted by the liberal Change Now PAC, which spent more than $800,000 on the race. Change Now discloses its donors, but receives considerable funding from the Sixteen Thirty Fund, a dark money organization with secret donors. Liberal dark money is a thing. Presidential hopefuls are bickering about it as I type.

But only one side wants to do anything about it.

Finkenauer voted for HR 1, which would require super PACs and dark money groups to disclose all donors, among other important reforms. The bill would require social media platforms to disclose the source of money paying for political ads, strictly prohibit any shady coordination between candidates and super PACs and restructure the Federal Election Commission so that it actually can settle disputes. The commission, incidentally, has deadlocked 3-3 twice on the issue of whether American Action Network should register as a political committee.

HR 1 also calls for a constitutional amendment to defang the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, which opened the floodgates on undisclosed political cash.

But HR 1 is stuck in the Republican Senate, speaking of an issue that could have been addressed long before impeachment. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell won’t take it up. Secretive millionaires have a true friend in McConnell. Democracy, not so much.

If Finkenauer’s likely Republican challenger, state Rep. Ashley Hinson, has any ideas for reforming our dark-money-spewing ATM of a political train wreck, she hasn’t yet shared them.

But, really, why would Hinson or any other Trumpian Republican want to change the system? After all, millionaires and billionaires shoveling dishonest political garbage into states and congressional districts paved the path for a billionaire to turn the White House into a malevolent malfeasance factory. Trump may have lied more than 16,000 times, but he’s still only catching up with all the lies paid for with unrestrained campaign spending from sketchy or secret donors.

Not even impeachment can dent the truth resistant strain of politics they’ve unleashed

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You’d think in the face of all of this American carnage we could at least agree on disclosure, agree on wanting to know exactly whose fingerprints are on that big garbage shovel. But advocates for secrecy wrap their defense of the dark money in an insistence that disclosure chills free speech. Baloney. They simply don’t want to be held accountable for, in many cases, abhorrent political views. Very bad for business.

Timid rich guys. You really hate to see it.

You might also hate to see Stacy and all of her fake friends who will be visiting our congressional district very soon. No one will stop them. And it’s so disappointing.

(319) 398-8262; todd.dorman@thegazette.com

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