ND Dark Money Bill circulating

Published: Feb. 17, 2020 at 11:44 AM CST
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State Legislators received a bill draft that would eradicate dark money, and some say it would bring transparency to campaign finance laws.

The bill calls for political non-profits to list the names of their donors and the amounts given.

If someone wanted to donate to a federal political campaign, they would be capped at $2,800 per candidate. But to donate more than that, they can donate to a nonprofit organization for political and social campaigns.

These nonprofits don't have the $2,800 limit nor any other limit. However, they aren't required to disclose who's donating to them.

However, for North Dakota state elections, there are no limits.

A bill draft by State Rep. Karla Rose Hanson would force these groups to disclose who is giving them money.

Over the past 10 years, money in politics has been on the rise. According to watchdog organization "Open Secrets," more than $6.5 billion was spent on the 2016 election.

A significant part of that growth comes from political nonprofits and PACs.

"This bill is really trying to prevent problems. I think there are certainly examples where 501c(4)'s have been used to influence voters' decision making process. Whether it be for a candidate or an issue campaign like a ballot measure,” Hanson said.

The law allows 501c(4)'s to not disclose who their donors are, otherwise known as "dark money."

"What this bill would do is ensure that North Dakota voters know who is spending money to influence their vote,” Hanson said.

North Dakota already has disclosure laws for parties and campaigns. Hanson said these new laws would hold other political entities to similar standards.

Others will argue it's an issue of privacy. While the bill wouldn't limit how much you can donate, there are concerns over protecting the identities of donors.

"We do have an Ethics Commission that's gonna be dealing with all those things. So we're waiting for them to see what they're gonna do. So right now, I'm not sure what that bill would accomplish,” State Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner said.

This bill draft still has a long and difficult road ahead. The earliest it could be passed is during the next legislative session in 2021; after the 2020 election. The bill also has yet to be discussed by the state's judiciary committee.