Hypocrisy is hardly a novel charge among politicians, and the latest on the receiving end of such allegations is U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).
An outspoken critic of “dark money” and its effects on America’s elections, Whitehouse spoke on Wednesday at an event hosted by a group the Daily Caller described as a prime example of the sort of political spending he routinely rails against.
“Key legal and public policy issues”
He reportedly joined fellow Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) as a featured speaker at the left-leaning American Constitution Society’s event, where he discussed the federal court system and how to counter the confirmation of hundreds of conservative justices during President Donald Trump’s first term.
The Daily Caller reported that the group is listed as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
According to its website, the society fosters a “progressive” view of the law. The group says it pursues a mission that involves generating “intellectual capital for ready use by progressive allies and shapes debates on key legal and public policy issues including access to courts, voting, equality, immigration, workers’ rights, and many others.”
While these values are certainly legitimate and might resonate with a wide array of Americans, some critics argue it ventures beyond the restrictions under which nonprofit organizations are required to operate.
The nonpartisan watchdogs at OpenSecrets note that such 501(c)(3) groups “operate for religious, charitable, scientific or educational purposes” and “are not supposed to engage in any political activities, though some voter registration activities are permitted.”
“A shameless practice”
Specifically, the American Constitution Society might be considered a “dark money” entity because it engages in “spending meant to influence political outcomes where the source of the money is not disclosed.”
Of course, the Daily Caller pointed out that the ACS does disclose some of its sponsors. Nevertheless, the organization does not disclose the identity of its individual donors.
Despite the signs that the group he addressed would constitute a dark money organization, CNBC reported just two weeks ago that Whitehouse was a top sponsor of a bill that would require such judicial groups to publicly disclose all of their secret donors.
Neither the organization nor Whitehouse responded to the Daily Caller’s request for comment regarding the apparent duplicity — although the National Republican Senatorial Committee was more than willing to issue a statement asserting that “Democrats love bashing dark money, only to then turn around and benefit from it politically.”
Anyone paying attention to the details of this story and others like it are sure to agree with the NRSC’s conclusion that this is “a shameless practice that needs to be exposed.”