As politically active nonprofits scramble to figure out the implications of a recent court decision requiring them to disclose some of their donors, experts said one thing is clear: There will be ways around the new rules.
Groups could accept money through shell corporations, said campaign finance lawyers and advocates of more regulation of money in politics. They could shift money to allied super PACs. They could adjust their ads so they come right up against the line that would trigger disclosure.
Such jockeying has become commonplace as advocates push for more transparency about political contributions, particularly the giving from undisclosed donors they call “dark money.”
“It’s always been kind of a cat-and-mouse game about disclosure,” said Richard Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California at Irvine. “I don’t think people who are heralding the end of ‘dark money’ are going to be satisfied with what we end up seeing.”
Some of the biggest players in politics are nonprofits that don’t disclose their donors, including Americans for Prosperity on the right and the Sierra Club on the left. They typically influence elections by raising millions of dollars and running independent political ads urging voters to contact their lawmakers, or calling for the election or defeat of a specific candidate.