New CCP Issue Brief: “Dark Money” Drops to 2.9% of Campaign Spending in 2016

Brief finds that nonprofits have never accounted for more than 5% of all election campaign spending

Alexandria, VA – The Center for Competitive Politics, America’s largest nonprofit defending First Amendment political free speech rights, released a new Issue Brief today analyzing the amount of so-called “dark money,” or election campaign spending by nonprofits that are not required to publicly report the private information of their supporters to the government unless the contributions are earmarked for campaign ads, over the last six election cycles. Among other things, CCP’s Brief found:

  • “Dark money” declined in both absolute and relative terms from the last presidential election cycle, down to $184 million from $309 million.
  • “Dark money” accounted for only 2.9% of all campaign expenditures in 2015-2016.
  • Nonprofits have never accounted for more than 5% of all election campaign spending in any election cycle.

“For years, opponents of free speech have made it seem like campaign spending by nonprofits is dominating our politics. It’s not,” said CCP President David Keating. “Nonprofits play a small but important role in campaigns. If only politicians and PACs could speak about candidates, Americans would be worse off.”

“The hysteria over ‘dark money’ is overblown. By far, candidates and political committees continue to have the loudest voice in campaigns,” said CCP Senior Policy Analyst Luke Wachob. “Unfortunately, some lawmakers want to tip the balance even more in their favor by restricting nonprofit speech.”

To read the Issue Brief by Wachob, please go to or click here.

The Center for Competitive Politics is now the Institute for Free Speech.