Will The Media Stay Silent On Jeb Bush's Dark Money Donations?

Recent revelations that former Florida Governor Jeb Bush “has given his tacit endorsement” to a group that will funnel dark money to benefit a potential presidential run raise questions about how the media will respond, given how the press has frequently treated publicly disclosed charitable donations to the Clinton Foundation as a major scandal for Hillary Clinton. 

Jeb Bush “has given his tacit endorsement” to Right to Rise Policy Solutions, a nonprofit organization established by a former Bush staff member that shares its name with two Bush affiliated political committees, according to a March 31 report from The Washington Post. The nonprofit allows Bush to side-step campaign finance laws that cap donations from individual donors and require donations to political action committees (PACs) to be publicly reported, permitting “individuals and corporations” to “give as much as they want while remaining anonymous.” As noted by the Post, experts now predict that the creation of the “Bush-allied nonprofit” may push other candidates to create similar groups, “injecting more secret money into the political process.”

The media have previously gone to great lengths to scandalize donations to the Clinton Foundation, a global charity, devoting weeks of coverage in order to speculate about the impact of donations to a potential Hillary Clinton presidential run. The criticism has come in spite of the fact that those donations were publicly disclosed by Clintons, whose foundation according to the The Washington Post “goes beyond legal requirements” for transparency at a philanthropic organization. Various media figures baselessly speculated that the donations were “another way in to Clinton's potential campaign” and National Journal's Ron Fournier even asserted that donations to the charitable organization were proof that the Clintons would “cut any corners for campaign cash.”

The press' obsession with Clinton Foundation donations is in direct contrast to their lack of interest in controversial campaign donations to potential 2016 GOP contenders, like dark money donations benefitting Wisconsin Governor and 2016 presidential hopeful Scott Walker. On March 23 Yahoo News reported that the “richest man in Wisconsin” had made over $1.5 million in secret donations to the Wisconsin Club for Growth, a “pro-Walker advocacy group” where Walker helped generate large undisclosed donations. The group also worked to defend him in the 2012 recall election. However, according to a Media Matters analysis, the story went largely unreported by the media.