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Dark Money Fuels Attacks on Primary, Convention Candidates

Va Capitol Police Twitter Page; @VaCapitolPolice

As the spring convention and primary season heats up, candidates are feeling the heat from a network of shadowy political action committees. 

Following the money from a candidate is a matter of seeing where the money comes from and where the money gets paid out. But what about all these political action committees that have been created specifically to go negative against specific candidates?

Delegate Marcus Simon says knowing who's behind all these attack ads is difficult if not impossible.  "The one thing that everybody touts as our one redeeming quality is that everything is at least disclosed, and sure we have no caps on who can give money and we have no limits on who can give money but at least you get to see it all, and it's all transparent. But this particular way of organizing a PAC and then spending money in Virginia is essentially all dark," Simon argues.  "That's why we call it dark money."

Shruti Shah at the Coalition for Integrity says it's about time Virginia shined a light on all this dark money sloshing through the system. "If these spenders are a 501(c) organization, they can just say Americans for a Better Virginia. So you still don't know who is making the expenditure in which case you should require that organization to actually disclose who their donors are."

Earlier this year, lawmakers approved a study on campaign finance reform. And requiring more sunshine on dark money is certain to be one of the topics of discussion heading into the next General Assembly sessions.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.