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Food & Water Watch and Dark Money: A Lesson in Hypocrisy

Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 2.16.13 PMFood & Water Watch (FWW) is an outspoken critic of so-called “dark money” in politics – the unlimited, anonymous contributions by corporations, individuals and unions to political causes.

FWW proudly trumpets the call to “take action on money in politics,” criticizing the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling and calling for greater transparency. In a December 2015 letter to President Obama, the group notes that our political system is being influenced by “donors who remain anonymous, leaving voters in the dark about the people and interests to whom candidates are beholden.”

The practice FWW is criticizing – accepting “dark money” and refusing to be transparent about the source – is actually a practice in which the group is very well versed. The Center for Public Integrity released a report earlier this year that included FWW on a list of 21 groups that “complain about dark money” while “shroud[ing] their own pots of money.”

“Food & Water Watch has…invested dollars in elections from unknown sources. The group spent more than $600,000 since 2012 supporting ballot measures…In its 2013 annual report, the most recent available online, Food & Water Watch emphasizes that it does not take money from corporations or governments and lists some foundations that have given to it. However, it thanks ‘anonymous funders and supporters’ and does not list individual donors.”
– Center for Public Integrity, “Groups decrying ‘dark money’ use shadowy money themselves” January 14, 2016

In fact, from 2011 through 2014, nearly 80 percent of FWW funding – more than $40 million – came from sources that the group did not disclose.[i] This all begs the question: if FWW wants to call on others to disclose their dark money sources, shouldn’t it do so as well?


[I] FOUNDATION DIRECTORY ONLINE (FDO) ACCESSED APRIL 15, 2016; 2011-2013 GRANTS VERIFIED BY GRANTEE LISTS AND IRS 990S.
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