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State Officials Organize To Fight Dark Money

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Last month, state lawyers and elections officials from about 10 states held a conference call to talk about "how to deal with the flood of secret money that played an unprecedented role in the 2012 election," according to The Los Angeles Times. So-called "dark money" groups, notably 501(c)4 "social welfare" non-profits, spent hundreds of millions of dollars during the last election cycle.

Officials from California, New York, Alaska, and Maine participated in the call, which was organized by Ann Ravel, the chairwoman of California's Fair Political Practices Commission. So far, the officials are just sharing information. But according to the Times, the officials may eventually work together on investigations and to press federal agencies for more action.

"There is no question that one of the reasons to have states working together is because the federal government, in numerous arenas, has failed to take action," Ravel told the newspaper.

Ravel's agency has been investigating an $11 million donation made last year by the conservative group Americans for Job Security to impact ballot initiative fights in California. The money was funneled through an Arizona dark money non-profit called Americans for Responsible Leadership. Last year, the Fair Political Practices Commission called the donation "the largest contribution ever disclosed as campaign money laundering in California history."

Back in December, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) announced new rules that would make dark money political organizations that operate in New York report more details about their activities.

In Maryland, meanwhile, Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) on Thurdsday signed legislation which, according to the Times, will force independent groups that spend $6,000 or more on election-related donations or expenditures per four-year cycle to disclose more information about their top donors.