By Elizabeth DiNovella on September 20, 2012

Dark money, aka undisclosed campaign cash, played a pivotal role in Wisconsin's recall elections of 2011 and 2012. More than half of the $90.4 million raised was undisclosed, according to a new report from the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. And these same dark money big spenders are gearing up to splurge again in Wisconsin as the Senate race between Tammy Baldwin and Tommy Thompson heats up.

The top three issue ad groups in the recall races -- Club for Growth Wisconsin, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce and Americans for Prosperity -- backed GOP candidates. Thanks to lax campaign finance laws, these groups do not have to reveal who funds their operations.

Club for Growth Wisconsin and Americans for Prosperity are social welfare nonprofits, classified by the IRS as 501(c)4s, that can raise unlimited amounts of cash, support and oppose candidates, and buy ads right up until Election Day.

These types of nonprofits are having a huge impact nationally, too, not just in Wisconsin. According to ProPublica, more money is being spent on TV advertising in the presidential race by social welfare nonprofits than by any other type of independent group. (Take that, super PACs.) ProPublica also reports that the majority of dark-money groups support conservative-leaning causes.

And these groups just got a lucky break this week. On Tuesday, a federal appeals court reversed a March decision that required 501(c)4s to disclose their donors if they aired specific types of ads close to Election Day. So now these nonprofits can fund whatever types of ads they want, without disclosure.

Here in Wisconsin, it's time to brace for an onslaught of negative ads. Again. We'll be left wondering who really paid for that ad during the Packers Monday Night Football game.

If you liked this story by Elizabeth DiNovella, the Culture Editor of The Progressive magazine, check out her story "Sherrod Brown Beats Back Big Money."

Follow Elizabeth DiNovella @lizdinovella on Twitter.


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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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