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Politics & Government

What Is "Dark Money" And Is It Present In The Boise Mayoral Race?

James Dawson
Boise State Public Radio

The term “dark money” refers to political donations to nonprofit organizations that are not required to disclose their donors. While it’s not illegal, it can raise some ethical questions.



Jaclyn Kettler, a political science professor at Boise State University, joined Idaho Matters Tuesday to unpack recent “dark money” claims in the mayoral election. 

One of the political action committees in question is the Conservation Voters for Idaho Action Fund. It donated heavily to McLean’s campaign. Kettler says these funds don’t fall under “dark money” because the PAC discloses its donors.

“If the groups that are receiving funds as a result are disclosing their donors, then there is not dark money," says Kettler. "If they are nonprofits like social welfare organizations that don’t disclose, well they wouldn’t be disclosing anyways."

Kettler says McLean has also been criticized for the Idaho Progressive Investors Network that she founded. The organization acts as a “matchmaker” between donors and causes. Because donors are not giving money directly to the network, Kettler says the possibility of unethical “dark money” is less likely.

“If the money was flowing through the organization to then shield the original donors, then that would be more concerning," says Kettler.

Kettler says it’s hard to know how much dark money is here in local politics, but for now, it’s more prevalent in national elections. 


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