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A Post and Courier Podcast

Understand SC: Why dark money groups can play an outsize role in state elections

  • Updated

In the couple weeks leading up to the primary runoff for South Carolina state Sen. Luke Rankin's seat, televisions in the Myrtle Beach area were flooded with political ads — at least $785,000 worth of them, to be exact. 

The ads were paid for by three different groups but, beyond those groups' names, not much else is known about them. That's because they're so-called "dark money" organizations that pour huge sums of money into political ads but don't disclose their donors. 

For this particular race, which pitted Rankin against a conservative challenger, those groups combined were able to spend more than three times what Rankin raised for his own campaign. 

This kind of political spending is becoming increasingly common in the U.S., but the system is particularly bad here in South Carolina because of the state's campaign finance laws. 

South Carolina is one of just three states that does not track or police this type of political advertising in any way.

For this week's podcast, we talked with political reporter Jamie Lovegrove and business reporter Andrew Brown who followed the money with the race for Rankin's seat.

They also discussed why this race in particular was targeted, which other S.C. elections have been influenced by dark money and how likely it may be to see legislation that reins in these groups in the near future. 

Listen now to find out. 

Understand SC is a weekly podcast from The Post and Courier that explains important issues in our state as well as the context that gives it meaning. Hosts Emily Williams and J. Emory Parker use the reporting resources and knowledge of the newspaper to help you better understand our state.

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Reach Emily Williams at 843-937-5553. Follow her on Twitter @emilye_williams.

Emily Williams is a business reporter at The Post and Courier, covering tourism and aerospace. She also writes the Business Headlines newsletter and co-hosts the weekly news podcast Understand SC.

Digital Editor

J. Emory Parker is the digital editor at The Post and Courier. He also hosts the “Understand SC” podcast Before joining the paper in 2013, he was a molecular biologist.

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