In a fundraising email sent last week, Rep. Chris Van Hollen's senate campaign claimed that his opponent, Kathy Szeliga was benefiting from "a shadowy dark money organization that refuses to disclose its donors."
The fundraising email insisted this organization was using "secret money to elect my opponent." Sounds scary, huh?
In reality, the "shadowy group" is called Move Maryland Forward, and has spent all of $14,500 on Szeliga so far (it plans to spend $31,500 for the election). To put that in context, Szeliga has raised $893,373 this election and Van Hollen has raised a whopping $9.5 million.
A spokesman for the group told the Washington Examiner that it is a super PAC and it does have to disclose its donors. Donors are disclosed quarterly, so they won't be revealed for a couple months.
The Szeliga campaign claimed to have never heard of the group.
But Van Hollen's campaign is receiving aid from far more outside groups, some of which actually don't have to disclose donors. Among these are both super PACs (which do have to disclose) and 501(c)4s (which don't). One super PAC, affiliated with the National Association of Realtors, spent nearly $1 million on Van Hollen's re-election during the primary.
Van Hollen has previously benefitted from money that broke FEC rules, resulting in a fine. In 2004, Van Hollen was fined $2,500 by the FEC for accepting donations from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's PAC, which had exceeded FEC limits when donating to candidates.
The Van Hollen campaign tried to rebuff outside spending early in this year's campaign, but of course campaigns have no control over the outside spending.
Move Maryland Forward isn't donating to Szeliga — they're spending money on billboards to help get her elected (billboards which are either limited in number or haven't gone up yet). She can't control what they do any more than Van Hollen can control the much larger outside groups that are spending on his behalf.
Ashe Schow is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.