Earlier this year, President Biden denounced the influence of undisclosed funding, commonly known as “dark money,” as a threat to democracy. Recent developments reveal that President Biden is now endorsing a super PAC named Future Forward, which experts claim engaged in an unlawful maneuver to conceal its donors.
Future Forward, led by former officials from Obama’s campaign team, has garnered support from Biden’s circle as the primary super PAC backing his reelection efforts. The key to Future Forward’s success lies in its remarkable capacity to amass substantial funds – almost $400 million over the past five years – to finance advertisements boosting Biden and other Democratic candidates in pivotal states. Legal experts cautioned that the mechanisms employed by Future Forward to anonymously accumulate a significant portion of these funds may lead to its eventual downfall, as reported by the Washington Free Beacon.
The major contributor to the Biden-endorsed super PAC is its associated dark money entity, Future Forward USA Action, which is not obligated to disclose its donors publicly. Yet, should a contributor instruct the nonprofit to channel their donation to Future Forward, the super PAC would then be required to unveil the donor’s identity in federal campaign finance disclosures. In its 2021 tax filings, Future Forward USA Action admitted to swiftly delivering $3.4 million in donations to Future Forward – a circumstance that would necessitate the super PAC to divulge the contributors’ identities, according to former Federal Election Commission chairman Bradley Smith.
However, Future Forward refrained from revealing the identities of those who provided the funds. Charlie Spies, a Republican election lawyer, contends that Future Forward’s failure to disclose donors who funneled funds through the dark money affiliate constitutes a breach of federal election law. Spies pointed out that analogous strategies have resulted in federal charges and significant penalties. Spies explained Future Forward USA Action admitted to making over $3 million in earmarked political contributions, where they obscured the true super PAC donor’s identity by routing the money through the nonprofit.
Less than a year ago, Biden endorsed a bill by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D., R.I.) designed to eliminate dark money’s corrosive influence on American democracy. Biden, in September, emphasized that untraceable political contributions eroded public trust and advocated for their prohibition. However, the Senate reached a deadlock of 49-49 on the bill shortly after Biden’s declaration.
As recent polls depict President Biden and former President Donald Trump in a virtual tie for a potential 2024 rematch, the Biden campaign is implying that the president might headline fundraising events for Future Forward. Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, Biden’s 2020 campaign manager, lauded Future Forward’s role in securing Biden’s 2020 victory and highlighted its anticipated pivotal role in supporting his 2024 bid.
Recent filings with the FEC by Future Forward suggest that the super PAC has persisted in utilizing its dark money affiliate as a conduit to shield its contributors from public scrutiny. Public filings from the super PAC indicate a meager $67,000 raised in the first half of 2023. However, weeks earlier, it informed the New York Times that it had amassed $50 million during that period, suggesting that the bulk of these funds were channeled through Future Forward USA Action. The dark money affiliate of the super PAC is not required to disclose its 2023 financial details to the IRS until after the 2024 election.
Among other things, Paul Kamenar, a lawyer for the National Legal and Policy Center watchdog group, claims that it looks like Biden’s preferred Future Forward super PAC is violating the FEC’s donor disclosure laws by laundering dark money donations through its related Future Forward USA Action nonprofit.
The White House declined to respond to requests for comment, and it’s noteworthy that the Department of Justice has previously taken legal action against political activists who utilized dark money groups to channel funds to super PACs. In 2022, Joseph Fuentes-Fernandez, a Puerto Rico-based super PAC leader, received a 14-month prison sentence for routing political contributions through affiliated nonprofits to conceal donor identities.
This isn’t the first instance of such tactics being penalized – in 2017; the FEC imposed a $350,000 fine on the nonprofit American Conservative Union for acting as an intermediary to conceal the origin of a $1.71 million super PAC contribution.