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Suppose, there's a legally allowed limit which a person seeking election can spend on his campaign. Money receivers and donors are disclosed, a legal campaign account has its limitations so a politician uses unaccounted money which can exceed legally reported expenditures by several times. In Russian, there's a phrase that can be literally translated as "a black cash register" (or, less literally, "black funds"). In English, can I say 'under-the-counter cash'? If not, how can I say otherwise?

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  • unreported campaign contributions.
    – Lambie
    Jun 28 at 14:13
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What you're looking for is the expression off-the-books:

: not reported or recorded
// off-the-books transactions
// off-the-books covert operations

It applies to more than just money, but it certainly does apply there too.

For instance, you could say:

Their campaign was financed by off-the-books contributions.

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  • "Off-the-books transactions" are illegal, aren't they? Dec 10 '19 at 3:26
  • @SergeyZolotarev They certainly can be, although they don't have to be. But you had asked for something illegal or unaccounted. Off-the-books things are at least unaccounted for, and generally (but not necessarily) illegal by connotation Dec 10 '19 at 12:44
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In Indian English we use "Black Money" for money which is kept off the official books and on tax is intended to be evaded.

Specifically to your question, "Slush Funds" is a term that denotes a hidden or unaccounted sum of money that is kept aside for bribery or other illicit activities.

It has been used to refer to unaccounted funds used in election campaigns, as well as corporate funds reserved for bribes and lobbying where the source of funds is visible but destination is obscured.

For example;

[Choi] used her friendship with the South Korean leader to pressure businesses into donating to charitable foundations, which served as her personal slush fund.

-- Spiritualist at Centre of Crisis Goes on Trial; The Nelson Mail (New Zealand); Dec 20, 2016.

"Slush Funds" has an interesting etymology, it is claimed to originate in the navy around 1830's from "the fat or grease (slush) skimmed from the top of the cauldron when boiling salted meat." The income thus earned from selling this unaccounted fat from a ship's galley would create an unofficial fund for small luxury expenses.

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“Dark money” is the closest equivalent I can think of in English, American English in particular. However, in the United States, “dark money” is not necessarily illegal, it just implies that the source of the money is unknown (and would most likely want to remain unknown).

Not a perfect match, but I can’t think of anything closer to what you are looking for.

“Under-the-counter” tends to suggest more that you are avoiding taxes, and is not usually used to describe political donations.

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  • I read a bit of the Wiki page on the term and got the impression that it refers to legal money: undisclosed but lawfully so. It's not what I'm looking for Dec 8 '19 at 9:12
  • I agree, but as I say I’m not sure there’s anything in English exactly equivalent to that Russian phrase. Newspapers etc. might simply say “illegal donations” or something similar.
    – mat_noshi
    Dec 8 '19 at 16:08
  • Is 'under-the-counter cash' really bad? Dec 8 '19 at 16:09
  • “Under-the-counter” is used more in cases where someone wants to avoid taxes. If you employ someone and pay them in cash, and don’t declare it for tax purposes, you might say you are “paying them under the counter”. But this phrase is rarely, if ever, used to describe political donations, illegal or otherwise.
    – mat_noshi
    Dec 9 '19 at 5:17
  • the term is unreported campaign contributions: money used in campaigns is called contributions. The money must be reported to the IRS, etc.
    – Lambie
    Dec 9 '19 at 5:18

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