New Analysis Shines a Light on 2012 Election Spending

As we head into the last weekend before the presidential election, U.S. PIRG and Demos have released an analysis of outside spending up to last week. The quick take-away: Secret and wealthy donors are drowning out the rest of us like never before. Some highlights:

  • Outside spending organizations reported $ 1.11 billion in spending to the FEC through the final reporting deadline in the 2012 cycle. That's already a 400% increase over total 2008 outside spending.

With regard to individual donations to super PACs, which have been permitted without limit in the wake up post-Citizens United rulings:

  • More than 60% of the 440.9 million raised by Super PACs from individuals came from just 91 people giving at least $1 million each. 97% came from just over 1,900 donors who gave at least $10,000 apiece.
  • Super PACs have received as much from 629 wealthy individuals as the two presidential campaigns have received from all small donors giving less than $200, who are at least 1.9 million people. That means the voice of the average wealthy super PAC donor is more than 3,000 times more powerful than the average small donor.

With regard to corporate spending, which Citizens United unleashed:

  • Restore Our Future (Mitt Romney's super PAC) has received over 20% of its $156 million in donations from for-profit businesses.
  • Freedomworks for America has received 45% of its funds from for-profit businesses.
  • While most corporate money is likely being funneled through dark money organizations, businesses are nevertheless providing 12% of all super PAC funds.

And with regard to unreported dark money:

  • When all types of outside spending on television ads related to the presidential race are taken into account, 32% the spending has come from by "dark money" groups that do not disclose their donors.

While big business tries to take advantage to silence the voices of ordinary people during the campaign, another assault on the integrity of our elections and of our democracy is seen in right-wing efforts to obstruct certain groups of people from voting. Earlier this week, our affiliate People For the American Way joined with more than fifty other organizations to express concern about both corporate influence in elections and voter suppression.  Calling for "Money Out, Voters In," the joint statement reflects a growing recognition that these two closely related problems threaten our democracy and a commitment by the dozens of signing organizations to tackle both problems together.

Last week, People For the American Foundation released a report highlighting examples of voter suppression efforts in the states. The Right to Vote Under Attack, 2012 Update follows up on a 2011 report.

Undercutting the legitimacy of campaigns and undercutting the legitimacy of elections are two aspects of the same long-term game plan: To weaken the foundations of our democracy, take power away from We the People, and hand it to corporate interests.

PFAW Foundation