Some of the most heated exchanges in Wednesday’s campaign debate between Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Democratic challenger Lisa Brown focused on the role of so-called “dark money” in the campaign.

Each candidate for Eastern Washington’s 5th Congressional District seat accused the other of taking advantage of political donations that aren’t traceable.

Travis Ridout.
Travis Ridout

Travis Ridout, a Washington State University political science professor who studies political ads and fundraising, said when people usually refer to “dark money” in politics, they’re talking about groups like Equity Forward, not the Congressional Leadership Fund, which must disclose donors to the FEC.

“Most of what we see in politics is the 501(c)(4)s, who are not required to disclose donors,” Ridout said. “That’s why we refer to them as dark money.”

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