Even if you’ve never heard the phrase “dark
patterns,” you’re almost certainly familiar with them. They’re
the sneaky ways online companies trick you into agreeing to
stuff you’d normally never assent to.
Classic example: You encounter a prompt asking if you want to
sign up for some program or service, and the box is already
checked. If you don’t uncheck it — that is, if you do nothing —
A bipartisan bill has been introduced in Congress that would
prohibit websites and online platforms (hi, Facebook!) from
employing such deliberately deceptive tactics, and would empower
the Federal Trade Commission to crack down on sites that keep
trying to fool people.
The Deceptive Experiences to Online User Reduction Act (a.k.a.
the DETOUR Act) is the
brainchild of Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Deb Fischer
(R-Neb.). They’re hoping the legislation will be included as
part of sweeping privacy regulations now under consideration in
the Senate Commerce Committee.
Warner and Fischer will be hosting tech and privacy experts on
Tuesday for a Capitol Hill seminar on the various ways consumers
can be hoodwinked online.
“For years, social media platforms have been relying on all
sorts of tricks and tools to convince users to hand over their
personal data without really understanding what exactly it is
that they’re handing over,” Warner told me.
He says website developers aren’t stupid. They closely study
behavioral psychology to understand how internet users can be
most easily misled.
“Our bill is pretty simple,” Warner said. “We just want
consumers to be able to make more informed choices about how and
when to share their personal information.”
Fischer told me separately that there needed to be far greater
transparency surrounding the click of an “OK” button.
“These manipulative user interfaces intentionally limit
understanding and undermine consumer choice,” she said. “Any
This sort of deception is one of those things most internet
users probably are aware of but likely don’t give much thought
to. Many of us just take for granted that websites are trying to
separate us from our personal info.
But this perpetual siege on our privacy doesn’t have to be the
default setting. There’s no reason for consumers to simply
accept that just because online businesses are desperate for our
data, there’s nothing we can do about it.
The fact that there’s a term of art for these practices — “dark
patterns” — tells us that increasingly sophisticated methods are
A European study last year
found that Facebook and Google in particular had become masters
of steering people into making choices that weren’t in their
“The combination of privacy-intrusive defaults and the use of
dark patterns nudge users of Facebook and Google, and to a
lesser degree Windows 10, toward the least privacy-friendly
options to a degree that we consider unethical,” the study’s
They found that the companies used misleading wording,
take-it-or-leave-it choices and hidden privacy options to compel
users to reveal as much about themselves as possible.
“When digital services employ dark patterns to nudge users
toward sharing more personal data, the financial incentive has
taken precedence over respecting users’ right to choose,” the
In response to the study, eight U.S. consumer advocacy groups,
including Santa Monica’s Consumer Watchdog, called on the FTC to
investigate use of dark patterns by internet companies.
“The entire online ecosystem, at least the commercial
ecosystem, manipulates users into doing what companies want them
to,” said Carmen Balber, executive director of Consumer
“Every internet site on some level drives people where
companies want them to go,” she said. “But it’s one thing to try
to drive clicks to your shoe ad — people expect that. They don’t
expect a site to intentionally misdirect them.”
She observed that federal authorities decades ago clamped down
on subliminal advertising on TV — the planting of messages that
could make an impression on consumers even though they appeared
too quickly to be consciously noted. Authorities, however, have
yet to acknowledge the similar effect of dark patterns.
“It’s time online users were protected from internet companies’
intentionally deceptive designs,” Balber said. “Rules of the
road for privacy design are overdue.”
The DETOUR Act would provide such rules.
It would make it illegal “to design, modify or manipulate a
user interface with the purpose or substantial effect of
obscuring, subverting or impairing user autonomy,
decision-making or choice to obtain consent or user data.”
The bill would introduce more transparency to the online
experience by requiring sites to disclose “any form of
behavioral or psychological research” and “any experiments” they
employ to manipulate user behavior.
It also would create an independent review board to oversee
“any behavioral or psychological research, of any purpose,
conducted on users.”
Language like that would seem far-fetched if this wasn’t really
happening, as the European study illustrated. It said many of
the techniques now being employed online are based on “the
fields of behavioral economy and psychology.”
In just one example, the study showed how Facebook steered
users into accepting the company’s desired privacy settings by
making the “accept” button an appealing bright blue, while the
option for changing those settings was a dull gray.
“The option that the service provider wants users to choose was
deliberately made more eye-catching,” researchers said.
Moreover, “users that were in a rush to use Facebook were
inclined to simply click the blue button and be done with the
process, which results in the maximum amount of data collection
Dark patterns also can take the form of ads disguised as
navigation links, hidden costs that don’t appear until the very
last step of a transaction, or free trials that turn into
recurring payments that are very difficult to cancel.
Some might say these tactics are too simplistic to pose a
threat to tech-savvy consumers. But the same could be said of hiding sexual images in magazine ads and
Companies do it because they know, from years of quiet
research, that it works.
Dark patterns are real. And they’ll keep being used to
influence our online behavior.
Unless we do something about it.
THIS CASE IS ENTIRELY ABOUT BRIBERY
If you thought that Mossack Fonseca and the Panama Papers was "The Story":
IT WAS ONLY THE BEGINNING AND THE BRIBES, STOCK MARKET RIGGING AND
CORRUPTION ARE STILL INCREASING!!!
In the USA; Mofo, Wilson Sonsini, Perkins Coie, Covington & Burling,
and other firms, do the same corruption today that Mossack Fonseca did
when they got caught.
THIS IS ABOUT THE U.S. SENATORS AND THEIR CRONY DARK MONEY POLITICAL
BRIBES AND CRIMINAL KICK-BACKS, THE TECH OLIGARCHS WHO DEPLOYED THE BRIBES
AND THE VICTIMS OF THESE CRIMES.
- Google, Tesla, Facebook, Linkedin and their VC's (and deeply bribed
Senators) ordered and operated hit-jobs on the public and their
competitors, supported by the Obama White House and U.S. Dept. of Energy.
The FBI raided their scheme and the investigations tracked all the way
back to the Oval Office!
- How Obama's U.S. Department of Energy Defrauded Americans Out Of Their
Life Savings In A Massive Dark Money Crony Crime Cover-up
- "DARK MONEY" IS THE WAY THAT CORRUPT POLITICAL CRIMINALS EXCHANGE
COMPENSATION, BRIBES AND INFLUENCE WITHOUT THE FBI CATCHING THEM
- For these politicians to say: "We are excluded from the law for these
crimes because we changed the laws in order to exclude ourselves" is like
the Mafia saying: "Killing people isn't illegal only if we do the
- This is about a group of tech oligarchs, and their corrupt Senators, who
commit crimes in order to manipulate over a trillion tax dollars (YOUR
MONEY) into their, and their friends pockets.
- They create fake issues that they hype-up through their controlled
media. They use media monopoly tricks to try to shut out any other
viewpoints. They push pretend issues that they believe will get more tax
money allocated to "issue solutions" that they, and their friends, happen
to already own the monopolies for.
- They are felons yet they control some of the offices of the agencies who
are supposed to arrest them. Silicon Valley bought K Street and U.S.
Senators, gave them more Dark Money than history has ever seen and then
had giant tech-law firms bribe, hit-job and blockade any attempts to solve
- Some of the largest bribes in American history were paid via billions of
dollars of pre-IPO cleantech stock, insider trading, real estate, Google
search engine rigging and shadow-banning, sex workers, revolving door
jobs, nepotism, state-supported black-listing of competitors and
under-the-table cash. Why are these Silicon Valley Oligarchs and their
K-Street law firms and lobbyists immune from the law?
There are millions of sharks in the ocean but only "Jaws" was big enough
to earn himself (The Shark) so many feature films about trying to kill
him. It was simply because he was so big and so hungry. Judging by the
endless sequels, Jaws seems pretty hard to kill.
This is about the biggest sharks. They are from Silicon Valley.
Google, Facebook, Amazon, Linkedin, Netflix, et al; exist because they
operate under the criminal umbrella of the tech Cartel frat boys.
These guys are addicted to sex, and they are also huge assholes, so they
can't keep any partners around unless they pay them to be trophy wives or
"beard" wives. Buying sex from Italian escorts, young girls and New York
Rent Boys is really, really expensive. This drives them to do anything to
suck up huge amounts of cash.
These guys are also addicted to power, so they buy East and West Coast
U.S. Senators, British Parliament members and partner with corrupt Russian
oligarchs. Buying Senators is also really, really expensive. This also
drives them to do anything to suck up huge amounts of cash.
These guys need, and spend, massive amounts of cash. Being a tech oligarch
is really, really expensive. They can't have the IRS cutting into their
hooker-budgets. They spend massive amounts on big law firms to hide money
in real estate, trusts, fake charities and in a huge array of off-shore
These guys can't afford to get caught so they hire In-Q-Tel, Gawker Media,
Black Cube, Fusion-GPS, and a huge army of other attackers, to destroy
anybody who questions their motives.
Their Cartel exists because they own all of the main servers, banks,
venture capital firms, tech law firms, K Street lobbyists and tech HR
They control their entire eco-system and black-list anybody that offends
They own the internet and they delete anybody who steps in their circle.
Nobody can operate outside of it.
No start-up can compete with them without getting a hit-job put on it.
Since the year 2000, together, they have put over a million smaller
companies out of business.
They exist because of "Scaling": the ability to use monopolized networks
to reach everyone on Earth, have lower prices, and destroy all competition
because they control all infrastructure. Scaling is all they talk about at
their AngelGate "power lunches" in the back rooms of Restaurants on
University Avenue in Palo Alto.
The FBI can't stop them because they owned James Comey, the head of the
The SEC, FEC and FTC can't stop them because they own the regulators at
They Obama White House could not stop them because most of the Obama
Administration was staffed by, and directed by, the staff of Google,
Amazon and Facebook, et al.
The Silicon Valley tech Cartel makes the Mafia look like small potatoes.
They are a criminal organization!
SEE MORE AT:
If certain politicians are as 'impassioned to serve the public' as they
say, then shouldn't they volunteer for office and allow the public to see
all of their bank accounts?
Of course they will never do that because many of them are getting "DARK
MONEY" covert payola and they are in office only to serve criminal
Politician's Dianne Feinstein, Barbara Boxer, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and
42 others, sent out letters, emails, meeting requests and pitches to
solicit members of the public to join a cause. The top staff of the U.S.
Department of Energy (DOE) sent out the same pleas. They promised a
"wonderful new opportunity for all" in the first market break for
outsiders in 30 years.
In meetings, on camera, they promised to give members of the public a fair
shot at a group of new Department of Energy funds that Obama had put in
They failed to mention one key fact: ALL OF THE TAXPAYER MONEY HAD ALREADY
BEEN SECRETLY PROMISED ("Hard Wired" it is called) TO OBAMA'S, AND THE DOE
BOSSES, FRIENDS, IN ADVANCE.
That is a felony violation of the law. A crime which FBI Director James
Comey, and his staff covered up and which DOE Boss Steven Chu and his
staff actively implemented. Our team knows this, as fact, because they
reported directly to Comey, Chu and their offices.
It was not an 'accident', it was not an 'oversight', it was not 'an agency
just overwhelmed with paper'. It was a precision controlled, coordinated
organized crime effort designed to rape, both, the U.S. taxpayers and the
non-crony applicants for these funds.
The crime used the traditional bribes, crony payola contracts, revolving
doors, sex worker payoffs and other political corruption but it mainly
used a new tactic called "Dark Money'.
Our team knows this because some of them were solicited to participate in
these crimes and some of them had close personal relationships with the
politicians who are now known to have operated these crimes. Some of our
witnesses and insiders have been involved with the DOE since before 2000.
They have 'seen it all'.
Companies, their executives and their investors were induced by California
and New York Senators, White House Staff and the top staff of the
U.S. Department of Energy to invest many years of their lives, and tens of
millions of dollars of their personal cash in a fake government program
which only existed to pay off Obama's political financiers.
American taxpayers were lied to and ruined by the U.S Department of Energy
and their damages are increasing monthly. The DOE never apologized,
offered fixes or provided anything other than Fusion-GPS kinds of attacks
on those who asked for help or who reported the crimes.
This scam happened in 2008. History has proven that the DOE funds, since
then, were rigged. Congress, the news media and special investigations
have proven that these crimes happened. Nothing has ever been done to help
the victims (over 100 companies and over 1800 individuals) recover from
their state-sponsored losses.
Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi bought stock in initial public offerings
(IPOs) from the very Cleantech companies that earned hefty returns (ie:
Solyndra, Tesla, Abound, etc.) while she had access to insider information
that would have been illegal for an average citizen to trade with – even
though it’s perfectly legal for elected officials, CBS’s "60 Minutes"
reported Sunday night.
In a piece relying on data collected from the conservative Hoover
Institution, "60 Minutes" revealed that elected officials like Pelosi are
exempt from insider trading laws – regulations that carry hefty prison
sentences and fines for any other citizen who trades stocks with private
information on companies that can affect their stock price.
In the case of elected officials – this secret information ranges from
timely details on lucrative federal contracts to legislation that can
cause companies’ stocks to rise and fall dramatically.
Editor's Note: Repeal Obamacare? Vote Here Now
How do they get away with it? Lawmakers have exempted themselves from the
laws that govern every other citizen.
Pelosi, D-Calif., and her husband have participated in at least eight IPOs
while having access to information directly relating to the companies
involved. One of those came in 2008, from Visa, just as a troublesome
piece of legislation that would have hurt credit card companies, began
making its way through the House.
“Undisturbed by a potential conflict of interest the Pelosis purchased
5,000 shares of Visa at the initial price of $44 dollars. Two days later
it was trading at $64. The credit card legislation never made it to the
floor of the House,” Steve Kroft of "60 Minutes" reported.
Kroft confronted Pelosi at a regular press conference after she declined
Kroft: Madam Leader, I wanted to ask you why you and your husband back in
March of 2008 accepted and participated in a very large IPO deal from Visa
at a time there was major legislation affecting the credit card companies
making its way through the —through the House.
Nancy Pelosi: But —
Kroft: And did you consider that to be a conflict of interest?
Pelosi: The — y — I — I don't know what your point is of your question. Is
there some point that you want to make with that?
Kroft: Well, I — I — I guess what I'm asking is do you think it's all
right for a speaker to accept a very preferential, favorable stock deal?
Pelosi: Well, we didn't.
Kroft: You participated in the IPO. And at the time you were speaker of
the House. You don't think it was a conflict of interest or had the
Pelosi: No, it was not —
Kroft: — of a conflict of interest?
Pelosi: —it doesn't — it only has appearance if you decide that you're
going to have — elaborate on a false premise. But it — it — it's not
true and that's that.
Kroft: I don't understand what part's not true.
Pelosi: Yes sir. That — that I would act upon an investment.
“There are all sorts of forms of honest grafts that congressmen engage in
that allow them to become very, very wealthy. So it's not illegal, but I
think it's highly unethical, I think it's highly offensive, and wrong,” he
“… Insider trading on the stock market. If you are a member of Congress,
those laws are deemed not to apply,” Schweizer added. “The fact is, if you
sit on a healthcare committee and you know that Medicare, for example, is
— is considering not reimbursing for a certain drug that's market moving
information. And if you can trade stock on — off of that information and
do so legally, that's a great profit making opportunity. And that sort of
behavior goes on.”
Pelosi’s office issued a statement Sunday saying, “It is very troubling
that ‘60 Minutes’ would base their reporting off of an already-discredited
conservative author who has made a career out of attacking Democrats.”
Schweizer’s books include “Do as I Say (Not as I Do): Profiles in Liberal
Hypocrisy,” and “Architects of Ruin,” according to Schweizer’s page on the
Hoover Institution website.
What happened when the victims of these crimes reported the incidents to
authorities? The Obama Administration ordered and operated attacks on the
victims. Those attacks included the following reprisal, retribution and
- DOE solicited the victims with false promises and
caused them to expend millions of dollars and years of their time for
projects which DOE had covertly promised to their friends and were using
the victims as a “smokescreen” to cover their illegal DOE slush-fund for
the victims competitors and personal enemies.
- Social Security, SSI, SDI, Disability and other
earned benefits were stone-walled. Applications were “lost”. Files in the
application process “disappeared”. Lois Lerner hard drive “incidents” took
place in order to seek to hide information and run cover-ups.
- DOE’s Jonathan Silver, Lachlan Seward and Steven Chu
contacted members of the National Venture Capital association (NVCA) and
created national “black-lists” to blockade Victims from ever receiving
investor funding. This was also confirmed in a widely published disclosure
by Tesla Motors Daryl Siry and in published testimony.
FOIA requests were hidden, frozen, stone-walled,
delayed, lied about and only partially responded to in order to seek to
hide information and run cover-ups.
- State and federal employees played an endless game of
Catch-22 by arbitrarily determining that deadlines had passed that they,
the government officials, had stonewalled and obfuscated applications for,
in order to force these deadlines that they set, to appear to be missed.
- Some Victims found themselves strangely poisoned, not
unlike the Alexander Litvenko case. Heavy metals and toxic materials were
found right after their work with the Department of Energy weapons and
energy facilities. Many wonder if these “targets” were intentionally
exposed to toxins in retribution for their testimony. The federal MSDS
documents clearly show that a number of these people were exposed to
deadly compounds and radiations, via DOE, without being provided with
proper HazMat suits which DOE officials knew were required.
- Victims employers were called, and faxed, and ordered
to fire Victims from their places of employment, in the middle of the day,
with no notice, as a retribution tactic.
- On orders from Obama White House officials,
DNC-financed Google, YouTube, Gawker Media and Gizmodo Media produced
attack articles and defamation videos and locked them on the internet on
the top line, of the front page of all Google searches for a decade in
front of 7.5 billion people, around the world, at a cost of over $40
million dollars in server farms, production costs and internet rigging.
The forensic data acquired from this attack proved that Google rigs
attacks against individuals on the internet and that all of Google’s
“impressions” are manually controlled by Google’s executives who are also
the main financiers and policy directors of the Obama Administration. This
data was provided to the European Union for it’s ongoing prosecution of
Google’s political manipulation of public perceptions.
- Victims HR and employment records, on recruiting and
hiring databases, were embedded with negative keywords in order to prevent
them from gaining future employment.
- Our associates: Gary D. Conley, Seth Rich, Rajeev
Motwani and over 30 other whistle-blowers in this matter, turned up dead
under strange circumstances. They are not alone in a series of bizarre
deaths related to the DOE investiagtions.
- Disability and VA complaint hearings and benefits
were frozen, delayed, denied or subjected to lost records and "missing
hard drives" as in the Lois Lerner case.
- Paypal and other on-line payments for on-line sales
were delayed, hidden, or re-directed in order to terminate income
potential for Victims who competed with DOE interests and holdings.
- DNS redirection, website spoofing which sent Victims
websites to dead ends and other Internet activity manipulations were
conducted. All commercial storefronts and on-line sales attempts by
Victims, had their sites hidden, or search engine de-linked by an
massively resourced facility in order to terminate revenue potentials for
Over 50,000 trolls, shills, botnets and synth-blog
deployments were deployed to place defamatory statements and
disinformation about victims in front of 7.5 billion people around the
world on the internet in order to seek to damage their federal testimony
credibility by a massively resourced facility.
- Campaign finance dirty tricks contractors IN-Q-Tel,
Think Progress, Black Cube, Podesta Group, Stratfor, Fusion GPS, IN-Q-Tel,
Media Matters, Gawker Media, Gizmodo Media, Syd Blumenthal, etc., were
hired by DOE Executives and their campaign financiers to attack Victims
who competed with DOE executives stocks and personal assets.
- Covert DOE partner: Google, transfered large sums of
cash to dirty tricks contractors and then manually locked the media
portion of the attacks into the top lines of the top pages of all Google
searches globally, for years, with hidden embedded codes in the links and
web-pages which multiplied the attacks on Victims by many magnitudes.
Covert Cartel financier: Google, placed Google’s
lawyer: Michelle Lee, in charge of the U.S. Patent Office and she, in
turn, stacked all of the U.S. Patent Office IPR and ALICE review boards
and offices with Google-supporting employees in order to rig the U.S.
Patent Office to protect Google from being prosecuted for the vast patent
thefts that Google engages in. Google has hundreds of patent lawsuits for
technology theft and a number of those lawsuits refer to Google’s
operations as “Racketeering”, “Monopolistic Cartel” and “Government
Coup-like” behaviors. Thousands of articles and investigations detail the
fact that Google, “essentially” ran the Obama White House and provided
over 80% of the key White House staff. A conflict-of-interest unlike any
in American history. Google’s investors personally told Applicant they
would “kill him”. Google and the Obama Administration were “the same
entity”. Applicant testified in the review that got Michelle Lee
terminated and uncovered a tactical political and social warfare group
inside Google who were financed by Federal and State funds.
- Honeytraps and moles were employed by the attackers.
In this tactic, people who covertly worked for the attackers were employed
to approach the “target” in order to spy on and misdirect the subject.
- Mortgage and rental applications had red flags added
to them in databases to prevent the targets from getting homes or
- McCarthy-Era "Black-lists" were created and employed
against Victims who competed with DOE executives and their campaign
financiers to prevent them from funding and future employment.
- Targets were very carefully placed in a position of
not being able to get jobs, unemployment benefits, disability benefits or
acquire any possible sources of income. The retribution tactics were
audacious, overt..and quite illegal.
How does DOE Dark Money work? Let's take a look:
In the politics of the United States, dark money is funds given to
nonprofit organizations—and include 501(c)(4)(social welfare) 501(c)(5)
(unions) and 501(c)(6) (trade association) groups—that can receive
unlimited donations from corporations, individuals, and unions, and spend
funds to influence elections, but are not required to disclose their
donors. Dark money first entered politics with Buckley v. Valeo
(1976) when the United States Supreme Court laid out Eight Magic Words
that define the difference between electioneering and issue advocacy.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, "spending by
organizations that do not disclose their donors has increased from less
than $5.2 million in 2006 to well over $300 million in the 2012
presidential cycle and more than $174 million in the 2014 midterms."
The New York Times editorial board has opined that the 2014 midterm
elections were influenced by "the greatest wave of secret,
special-interest money ever raised in a congressional election."
The term was first used by the Sunlight Foundation to describe undisclosed
funds that were used during the United States 2010 mid-term
election. Its practical effect has been described by Donald Trump as
Congress "being under the magical spell of the donors."
In some elections, dark money groups have surpassed traditional political
action committees (PAC) and "super PACs" (independent-expenditure-only
committees) in the volume of spending. In 2014, the group Freedom
Partners was identified as the "poster child" for the rise of dark
money. In 2012, Freedom Partners had the ninth-highest revenues among
all U.S. trade associations which filed tax returns that year, more than
"established heavyweights" such as the American Petroleum Institute,
PhRMA, and U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Freedom Partners largely acted as
a conduit for campaign spending; of the $238 million it spent in 2012, 99
percent went to other groups, and Freedom Partners itself did not have any
employees. This was a major distinction between other high-revenue
trade associations, which typically have many employees and devote only
about 6 percent of spending to grants to outside groups.
The rise of dark money groups was aided by the U.S. Supreme Court
decisions in FEC v. Wisconsin Right to Life, Inc. (2008) and Citizens
United v. FEC (2010). In Citizens United, the Court ruled (by a 5–4
vote) that corporations and unions could spend unlimited amounts of money
to advocate for or against political candidates.
2010 election cycle
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, dark money (which it
defined as funds from outside groups that did not publicly disclose
donors, plus groups that received a substantial portion of their
contributions from such nondisclosing groups) accounted for nearly 44% of
outside spending in the 2010 election cycle.
In the 2012 election cycle, more than $308 million in dark money was
spent, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. An estimated
86 percent was spent by conservative groups, 11 percent by liberal groups
and 3 percent by other groups.
The three dark money groups which spent the largest sums were Karl Rove's
American Crossroads/Crossroads GPS ($71 million), the Koch brothers'
Americans for Prosperity ($36 million) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce
($35 million), all conservative groups. Aside from a complex, and
still highly covert network created by The Clinton Foundation, Media
Matters and The Podesta Group, the three liberal groups with the largest
dark-money expenditures were the League of Conservation Voters ($11
million), Patriot Majority USA, a group focusing on public schools and
infrastructure ($7 million), and Planned Parenthood (almost $7
The 2014 election cycle saw the largest amount of dark money ever spent in
a congressional election; the New York Timeseditorial board described 2014
"the greatest wave of secret, special-interest money ever." On the eve
of the election, Republican-leaning dark money groups dominated, with
$94.6 million in expenditures, exceeding dark money expenditures by
Democratic-leaning dark money groups ($28.4 million), and by expenditures
that could not be classified ($1.9 million). Karl Rove's dark money
group Crossroads GPS alone spent over $47 million in the 2014 election
In the Senate elections, dark money spending was highly concentrated in a
handful of targeted competitive states, and especially in Alaska,
Arkansas, Colorado, Kentucky, and North Carolina. In the eleven most
competitive Senate races, $342 million was spent by non-party outside
groups, significantly more than the $89 million spent by the political
In the 2014 Kentucky election, a key player was the "Kentucky Opportunity
Coalition," a group supporting Mitch McConnell, Republican of
Kentucky, whom the New York Times editorial board has described as
"the most prominent advocate for unlimited secret campaign spending in
Washington." The Kentucky Opportunity Coalition, a 501(c)(4) "social
welfare" group, raised more than $21 million, while McConnell raised
about $32 million and McConnell's opponent, Democratic candidate Alison
Lundergan Grimes, raised about $19 million. According to a Center for
Public Integrity analysis of data provided by advertising tracking firm
Kantar Media/CMAG, the group ran more than 12,400 television
advertisements. Every Kentucky Opportunity Coalition's television
advertisements mentioned either McConnell or Grimes; overall, about 53
percent of the group's ads praised McConnell while the rest were attack
ads against Grimes. The Kentucky Opportunity Coalition relied heavily
on political consultants in Washington, D.C. and Virginia linked to Karl
Rove's Crossroads groups, and received $390,000 in a grant from
Crossroads GPS. Described as "mysterious," the group was listed by a
Post Office box, and the only name formally associated with the group
was political operative J. Scott Jennings, a deputy political director in
the George W. Bush administration, a worker for McConnell's previous
campaigns. Melanie Sloan of the watchdog organization Citizens for
Responsibility and Ethics in Washington said that the Kentucky Opportunity
Coalition was "nothing more than a sham."
In North Carolina, the pro-Tillis group "Carolina Rising" received nearly
all (98.7%) of its funds from Crossroads GPS; the Center for Responsive
Politics highlighted this as an example of how Crossroads GPS, a 501(c)(4)
group, "evades limits on political activity through grants" to other
501(c)(4) groups. In the 2014 cycle, Crossroads GPS also gave
$5.25 million to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, $2 million to the American
Future Fund, and $390,000 to the Kentucky Opportunity Coalition. In
total, Crossroads GPS spent more than $13.6 million on grants to other
groups, which it described as being for the purposes of "social
In 2014, the Democratic Party-aligned dark money group Patriot Majority
USA, a 501(c)(4), spent almost $13.7 million on "direct and indirect
political campaign activities," airing 15,000 television ads in targeted
Senate races. About half of the $30 raised by the group came from five
anonymous donors. The group was led by Craig Varoga, "a staunch ally"
of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada.
In Alaska, Mark Begich was "one of the few Democratic candidates to come
close to receiving as much support from dark money as his Republican
opponent." The pro-Begich Alaska Salmon PAC, funded entirely by the
League of Conservation Voters and its Alaska affiliate, spent funds in
support of Begich.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, by October 2015, $4.88
million in dark money had already been spent for the 2016 election cycle,
"more than 10 times the $440,000 that was spent at this point during the
2012 cycle." The money was spent by six groups - five conservative
groups (including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which spent $3 million,
and Americans for Prosperity, which spent $1.5 million) and one liberal
group (Planned Parenthood, which spent just under $75,000).
According to Richard Skinner of the Sunlight Foundation, "the focus of
early dark money being spent in the 2016 cycle" is on competitive U.S.
Senate elections and some U.S. House of Representatives races.
However, dark money also is playing a role in the 2016 Republican
presidential primaries; by June 2015, at least four Republican
presidential candidates were raising funds via 501(c)(4) organizations:
Bobby Jindal's America Next, Rick Perry's Americans for Economic Freedom,
John Kasich's Balanced Budget Forever, and Jeb Bush's Right to Rise.
501(c) "dark money" groups are distinct from super PACs.While both
types of entity can raise and spend unlimited sums of money, super PACs
"must disclose their donors," while 501(c) groups "must not have politics
as their primary purpose but don't have to disclose who gives them
money." However, a single individual or group can create both types of
entity and combine their powers, making it difficult to trace the original
source of funds. ProPublica explains: "Say some like-minded people
form both a Super-PAC and a nonprofit 501(c)(4). Corporations and
individuals could then donate as much as they want to the nonprofit, which
isn't required to publicly disclose funders. The nonprofit could then
donate as much as it wanted to the Super-PAC, which lists the nonprofit's
donation but not the original contributors." In at least one
high-profile case, a donor to a super PAC kept his name hidden by using an
LLC formed for the purpose of hiding their personal name. One super
PAC, that originally listed a $250,000 donation from an LLC that no one
could find, led to a subsequent filing where the previously "secret
donors" were revealed.
During the 2016 election cycle, "dark money" contributions via shell LLCs
became increasingly common. The Associated Press, Center for Public
Integrity, and Sunlight Foundation all "flagged dozens of donations of
anywhere from $50,000 to $1 million routed through non-disclosing LLCs to
super PACs" backing various presidential candidates, including Marco
Rubio, Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Jeb Bush, and Carly
Bradley A. Smith, a former FEC chairman who is now with the Center for
Competitive Politics, a group that opposes campaign-finance reform, argues
that this practice is not problematic, writing that "it is possibly the
making of a campaign contribution in the name of another," a violation of
According to Kathy Kiely, managing editor of the Sunlight Foundation,
"untraceable dark money is a preferred tactic of conservatives, while
Democrats tend to use traceable super PACs."
The first federal law requiring disclosure of campaign contributions, the
Federal Corrupt Practices Act, was passed in 1910. By the late 1970s,
virtually all states and the federal government required public disclosure
of campaign contributions and information on political donors. Most states
and the federal government also required public disclosure of information
about donors and amounts spent on independent expenditures, that is,
expenditures made independently of a candidate's campaign.
In January 2010, at least 38 states and the federal government required
disclosure for all or some independent expenditures or electioneering
communications, for all sponsors.
Yet despite disclosure rules, it is possible to spend money without voters
knowing the identities of donors before the election.In federal
elections, for example, political action committees have the option to
choose to file reports on a "monthly" or "quarterly" basis.
This allows funds raised by PACs in the final days of the election to be
spent and votes cast before the report is due.
In addition to PACs, non-profit groups ranging from Planned Parenthood to
Crossroads may make expenditures in connection with political races. Since
these non-profits are not political committees, as defined in the Federal
Election Campaign Act, they have few reporting requirements beyond the
amounts of their expenditures. They are not required by law to publicly
disclose information on their donors. As a result, voters do not know who
gave money to these groups. Reports have disclosed instances where
non-profits were managed by close associates, former staff, or a
candidate's family member, and this has led to concern that the candidates
benefiting from their expenditures would be able to know who donated the
funds to the non-profit group, but the public would not. 
For example, in the 2012 election cycle, one organization, the National
Organization for Marriage, or NOM, operated two non-profit arms that
received millions in donations from just a few donors. It in turn funded
several different PACs. While these PACs had to disclose that NOM
contributed the funds, they were not required to disclose who gave money
On March 30, 2012 a U.S. District Court ruled that all groups that spend
money on electioneering communications must report all donors that give
more than $1,000. However, this ruling was overturned on
Legislative and regulatory proposals and debate over dark moneyAccording
to Columbia Law School's Richard Briffault, disclosure of campaign
expenditures, contributions, and donors is intended to deter
The Federal Elections Commission, which regulates federal elections, has
been unable to control dark money. According to the Center for Public
Integrity, FEC commissioners are voting on many fewer enforcement matters
than in the past because of "an overtaxed staff and commissioner
disagreement." The IRS (rather than the FEC) is responsible for
oversight of 501(c)(4) groups. The IRS "found itself ill-prepared for
the groundswell" of such groups taking and spending unlimited amounts of
money for political purposes in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's
decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission in 2010.
The agency particularly "struggled to identify which organizations
appeared to be spending more than the recommended 50 percent of their
annual budgets on political activities—and even to define what 'political
spending' was." When the IRS began looking at nonprofit spending, it
was accused of improper targeting in a 2013 controversy.
"With the FEC and IRS duly sidelined" advocates for disclosure turned to
the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC); nine academics from
universities across the U.S. filed petitioned the SEC in August 2011 for
the agency to "develop rules to require public companies to disclose to
shareholders the use of corporate resources for political activities."
The petition received over a million comments in the following month, "a
record amount for the SEC, with the overwhelming majority of voters asking
for better disclosure." According to Lucian Bebchuk, a Harvard
professor of law, economics, and finance who helped draft the petition,
the request had drawn the support of "nearly a dozen senators and more
than 40 members of the House." Under current SEC regulations, public
corporations must file a Form 8-K report to publicly announce major events
of interest to shareholders. The Sunlight Foundation, a group which
advocates for a comprehensive disclosure regime, has proposed that the 8-K
rule should be updated to require that aggregate spending of $10,000 on
political activities (such as monetary contributions, in-kind
contributions, and membership dues or other payments to organizations that
engage in political activities) should be disclosed and made publicly
available via the 8-K system.
In 2015, Republicans in Congress successfully pushed for a rider in a 2015
omnibus spending bill that bars the IRS from clarifying the social-welfare
tax exemption to combat dark money "from advocacy groups that claim to be
social welfare organizations rather than political committees."
Other provisions in the 2015 bill bar the SEC from requiring corporations
to disclose campaign spending to shareholders, and a ban application of
the gift tax to nonprofit donors. The Obama administration opposed these
provisions, but President Obama eventually acceded to them in December
2015, with the White House declining to comment. The nonpartisan Campaign
Legal Center said in a statement that the dark-money provision ensures
"that the door to secret foreign dollars in U.S. elections remains wide
open through secret contributions to these ostensibly 'nonpolitical'
groups that run campaign ads without any disclosure of their donors."
The Center for Competitive Politics (CCP), chaired by former FEC chairman
Bradley A. Smith, opposes legislation to require the disclosure of
dark-money groups, saying: "Our view is that many people will be driven
out of politics if they are forced to disclose their names and their
personal information. The purpose of disclosure is to help people monitor
the government, not for the government to monitor the people." The
Center for Competitive Politics views "dark money" as a pejorative term,
stating that the phrase "evokes an emotional, fearful reaction" and
contending that "many of the statistics published on the topic aim to
mislead rather than enlighten." The CCP maintains that dark money
"comprises a very small percentage of total campaign spending,"
calculating the percent of money spent in federal elections by
organizations that did not provide itemized disclosure of their donors as
4.3% in 2012 and 3.7% in 2014.
The U.S. Department of Energy was complicit in the processing of Dark
Money payola cycling to Obama's financiers as a 'hand-on' operator of a
All of the ruckus with Donald Trump and California/DOE VS. Trump is almost
entirely based on West Coast and New York corrupt senators, and their
insiders, freaking out about their Dark Money organized crime payola scam
coming apart and getting exposed.
There’s a reason why David Brock chooses to house an unregistered
Professional Solicitor in his office to raise money for his conglomerate
of Super PACs and non-profits.
Professional Solicitors are required to disclose their active solicitation
contracts. Brock wants his unregistered solicitor, the Bonner Group,
to keep their client list hidden for a very specific reason.
DAVID BROCK IS LAUNDERING MONEY AND RUNNING A CHARACTER ASSASSINATION
SERVICE. WHY HAS HE NOT BEEN ARRESTED?
David Brock has 7 non-profits, 3 Super PACs, one 527-committee, one LLC,
one joint fundraising committee, and one unregistered solicitor crammed
into his office in Washington DC.
Uncovered records expose a constant flow of money between these
The Bonner Group, his professional solicitor, works off a
commission. Every time money gets passed around, Bonner receives a
FOLLOW THE MONEY
Nonprofits are required to disclose who they give cash grants to.
But they aren’t required to disclose who gave them cash grants.
This weak system of one way verification is being abused by Brock.
He’s been cycling money between his organizations for years, and the
Bonner Group’s 12.5% commission gets triggered after every pass.
In 2014, Media Matters for America raised $10,021,188.
The Bonner Group was credited for raising these funds. Media Matters
paid them a $1,147,882 commission.
That same year, Media Matters gave a $930,000 cash grant to David Brock’s
Franklin Education Forum, an organization that shares office space with
In 2014, the Franklin Education Forum reported $994,000 in total
contributions. 93.6% of that total came from Media Matters!
Surprisingly, though, the Franklin Education Forum gave full credit
to Bonner for raising that money. They paid the fundraiser a
$124,250 commission in 2014!
NOTICE WHAT HAPPENED?
David Brock’s Media Matters gave a $930,000 cash grant
to David Brock’s Franklin Education Forum
David Brock’s Franklin Education Forum credited the
Bonner Group for raising those funds, triggering the 12.5% commission
David Brock paid the Bonner
Group a $124,250 commission to solicit a cash grant … from himself!
IT DOESN’T STOP THERE
After the Franklin Education Forum retained $869,750, they sent a $816,224
cash grant to David Brock’s The Franklin Forum:
Note: The ‘Franklin Education Forum’ is a 501(c)3, and ‘The Franklin
Forum’ is a 501(c)4. They are not the same company.
Since The Franklin Forum 501(c)4 paid Bonner a commission in 2013, it’s
safe to assume fundraiser received a $102,028 commission in 2014.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to tell for sure. They still haven’t filed their
taxes for 2014!
Say, for example, you donate $1,062,857 to Media Matters for
America. This is how David Brock would have used your
charitable donation in 2014:
In the end, Brock’s solicitor would have pocketed $350,825, almost a third
of your initial donation! That’s a far cry from the advertised 12.5%
As bizarre as that scenario may sound, this is exactly what David Brock
did in 2014.
HOW CAN WE BE SURE THIS IS INTENTIONAL?
David Brock is the Chairman for each of these organizations! How
could he not know what’s going on?
He’s a hands-on Chairman. According to their tax returns, Brock
allocates time, weekly, to his organizations:
Furthermore, the New York Times reports that David Brock shares a summer
rental in the Hamptons with Mary Pat Bonner, the President of the Bonner
David Brock will have a hard time claiming ignorance on this. These
transfers are intentional. He vacations with his solicitor.
STILL NOT CONVINCED?
David Brock didn’t even bother to give his organizations different phone
numbers. They all share the same phone number!
We even located the Bonner Group’s solicitation agreement with Media
Matters on Florida’s Gift Givers’ Guide. Clarification on their
commission can be found on page 2:
In English: Contractually, David Brock has the option to exclude
certain contributions from triggering the commission. In spite of
this option, he intentionally chooses to trigger the 12.5% commission for
money grants between his organizations.
Note: Yes, we are making the assumption that all of Brock’s organizations
have the same solicitation agreement with the Bonner Group. Given
that his organizations share the same address, board members, and
telephone number, we feel it’s safe to assume they also share the same
THIS BARELY SCRATCHES THE SURFACE
Utilizing public facing tax returns, along with records submitted to the
FEC, we mapped out all the significant money transfers from 2014 that took
place in Brock’s office:
This is all from just one year! No further commentary required.
We understand this may be hard to believe. We first came across this
in July, and are still having a hard time wrapping our heads around it.
All of the data referenced in this article originated from publicly
accessible sources. Check for yourself – we provided links to the
source material in our article exposing the organizations operating in
Brock’s office, This data has been sitting out in the open,
gathering dust for years!
If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then
it probably is a duck.
We’ve spent months trying to find some sort of loophole to justify this
activity. But there aren’t any loopholes. David Brock has
something to hide. Just last week, The Daily Callerreported the
“Brock’s former long-time live-in boyfriend William Grey (whom Brock has
thanked in several of his books) threatened to go to the IRS with damaging
information about how Brock was running his Media Matters empire.
What did Brock do? He paid Grey $850,000 to keep quiet. Brock reportedly
had to sell his home in Rehoboth, Delaware to come up with the money. This
certainly seems to indicate that Brock was terrified about what the
authorities would uncover.”
We’d also like to partner with you if you’re interested in reposting our
content on your own site. Please send an email to
Andrew@TheCitizensAudit.com to get started.
Dark patterns – user interfaces designed to deviously manipulate people
into doing things – have become common enough on websites and in apps
two dozen providers have sprung up to supply behavior persuasion
as a service.
And in some cases, these firms openly advertise deceptive marketing
techniques, describing ways to generate fake product orders and social
messages celebrating those fake orders.
This finding is one of several from seven computer science boffins –
Arunesh Mathur, Gunes Acar, Michael Friedman, Elena Lucherini, Jonathan
Mayer, Marshini Chetty, and Arvind Narayanan – all from Princeton
University in the USA, except for Chetty, who hails from the University
"We found 22 third-parties that offer 'dark patterns as a service,'" said
Arvind Narayanan, a professor at Princeton. "The psychology research
behind nudges has been weaponized."
The researchers analyzed the top 11,000 websites, as ranked by Amazon's
Alexa service, using a custom crawler that visits e-commerce sites and
completes the click flow to purchase products, then saves the interfaces
encountered and interactions for analysis.
The boffins found 1,841 dark patterns, representing 15 distinct types,
on 1,267 of those 11,000 shopping websites – that represents about 11.2
per cent of the data set. And they propose seven categories for such
Attempting to misrepresent user actions, or delay information that if
made available to users, they would likely object to.
Imposing a deadline on a sale or deal, thereby accelerating user
decision-making and purchases.
Using visuals, language, or emotion to steer users toward or away from
making a particular choice.
Influencing users' behavior by describing the experiences and behavior
of other users.
Signalling that a product is likely to become unavailable, thereby
increasing its desirability to users.
Making it easy for the user to get into one situation but hard to get
out of it.
Forcing the user to do something tangential in order to complete their
Dark patterns, ethically dubious though they may be, are not
necessarily illegal. "Not all dark patterns are illegal, but they are
nonetheless problematic because they are intended to prey on our
cognitive limitations and weaknesses," added
But some do violate the law. In Europe, the Consumer Rights Directive
makes Sneaking dark patterns illegal, the researchers claim. They also
note that the 234 instances of deception they found on 183 websites are
unlawful in the US, the EU, and other jurisdictions.
Legislators have already taken note. In April, US Senators Mark R.
Warner (D-VA) and Deb Fischer (R-NE) proposed
the Deceptive Experiences To Online Users Reduction (DETOUR) Act, which
aims to prevent large service providers – more than 100 million monthly
users – from using deceptive interface designs for software
The researchers say they hope their technology for identifying dark
patterns will prove useful to watchdogs. "The crawling and clustering
methodology that we developed is readily generalizable, and it radically
reduces the difficulty of discovering and measuring dark patterns at web
scale," the researchers explained in their paper.
They also hope their work will inspire countermeasures like the
creation of a website that names and shames e-commerce sites that rely
on dark patterns. ®