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Joe Biden's presidential victory was aided by $174 million in dark money contributions, according to a report by OpenSecrets.

Dark money spending exceeded $1 billion in 2020 election

More than $1 billion spent on the 2020 election — the most expensive presidential contest in history — came from unknown sources.

Because of the secretive nature of this so-called dark money, it's difficult to capture the entire scope of such undisclosed spending. So this enormous sum, first reported by OpenSecrets, is actually a conservative estimate. The organization, which tracks money in politics, published its report Wednesday after studying Federal Election Commission reports and advertising data.

Ironically, Democrats, who largely advocate for bolstering transparency around political spending, were the ones who benefited most from these undisclosed funds. OpenSecrets found that liberal dark money groups spent $514 million last year, compared to $200 million spent by conservative groups.

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Big Picture
End Citizens United

End Citizens United President Tiffany Muller said her group's priority will be advocating for the passage of the sweeping democracy reform legislation HR 1.

Reform in 2021: End Citizens United sees path forward on HR 1

This is the fifth installment of an ongoing Q&A series.

As Democrats take power in Washington, if only tenuously, many democracy reform groups see a potential path toward making the American political system work better. In this installment, Tiffany Muller, president of End Citizens United and and its affiliate Let America Vote, answers our questions about 2020 accomplishments and plans for the year ahead. Her organization takes a progressive approach to money-in-politics and voting rights reform. Muller's responses have been edited for clarity and length.

First, let's briefly recap 2020. What was your biggest triumph last year?

Electing a Democratic trifecta that's committed to comprehensive democracy reform. End Citizens United and Let America Vote made incredible progress toward cementing anti-corruption and voting rights reforms as core elements at the top of the Democratic Party's agenda. Whether it was protecting vulnerable House freshmen, helping to flip the Senate with all five winning Democrats rejecting corporate political action committee money, electing a new president or protecting the right to vote by fighting back against misinformation, I'm proud of our team's work throughout 2020 — all of which was accomplished working from home during a global pandemic!

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One big reason your health insurance costs so much: political cash

Bettino is a volunteer in White Plains, N.Y., for Wolf-PAC, which seeks to build grassroots support for a constitutional amendment permitting more regulation of money in politics.

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Institute for Free Speech

David Keating is the president of the Institute for Free Speech.

Meet the reformer: David Keating, leader for the right on money in politics

Closing in on nine years as president of the Institute for Free Speech, David Keating long ago cemented his status as one of the foremost conservative forces in the money-in-politics debate. The nonprofit's aim is to safeguard First Amendment rights, particularly unfettered political speech, and views deregulation of campaign finance as central to that goal. Keating took charge after a similar group he started, SpeechNow.org, won a federal lawsuit to end donation and spending limits on independent political groups — thus creating super PACs. He had top posts at two prominent fiscal conservative organizations, the Club for Growth and the National Taxpayers Union, earlier in a D.C. advocacy career dating to the 1980s. His answers have been edited for length and clarity.

What's democracy's biggest challenge, in 10 words or less?

Stopping government from discouraging dissent.

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