Super PAC Industry Grows 500% in Just Four Years

Five-hundred percent. According to a new report that’s how much spending by super PACs and outside groups has grown since the last presidential election. Across economic sectors, that kind of growth is unheard of.

Five-hundred percent. According to a new report that’s how much super PAC and outside group spending has grown since the last presidential election.1 That’s a growth rate that dwarfs expansion of even the fastest-developing industries in the United States. It’s sixty times greater than the growth rate of income for the average American family during the same period. Put simply, this kind of increase is unheard of.

Since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, our country has seen an explosion in super PAC spending that’s pushed regular Americans to the sidelines of our democracy. With more than a year to go before the 2016 elections, super PACs and other groups that work to influence the race outside of official campaigns and political parties have already spent more than $25.1 million.1 That’s a five-fold increase over their spending by the same point in the last presidential cycle.

Five-hundred percent can be a big number to conceptualize, so let’s put this in perspective by comparing the growth of super PAC spending with growth in other areas of the U.S. economy. Since the last presidential election, the average American saw their income grow by 7.9 percent.2 The U.S. economy grew by 7.3 percent.3 And according to the Census Bureau, the fastest growing industries saw revenue growth of just over 23 percent.4

Whether you’re talking about family income, industry revenue, employment, or the United States economy, five-hundred percent growth just doesn’t happen.

We can’t let super PACs continue their runaway spending. Join our petition to overturn Citizens United.

Congress has the power to act now to overturn Citizens United by voting on a constitutional amendment that’s been introduced in the House and Senate. According to recent polls, a vast majority of Americans from both political parties support that legislation.

While we work to make the case for a constitutional amendment, U.S. PIRG is also fighting for a small donor empowerment program to help amplify the voice of small donors in an era of big-money politics. That kind of program would match contributions of $150 or less at a rate of six-to-one with limited public funds for candidates that agree to lower contribution limits, giving candidates a chance to refocus their fundraising strategy on average Americans rather than mega-donors. Take a moment to find out more about our work and the potential of a small donor matching system.

As the 2016 presidential race heats up, we’ll be sure to keep you up-to-date on money and politics and our fight to put regular Americans back in the driver’s seat of our democracy. Thank you for joining us in action.



[1] Maguire, Robert. “Five-fold upsurge: Super PACs, dark money groups spending far more than in ’12 cycle at same point in campaign”. Open Secrets. September 21, 2015.

[2] “Historical Income Tables: People.” The United States Census Bureau.

[3] “US Real GDP By Year.” March 31, 2015.

[4] “Gross Output by Industry“. U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis. April 23, 2015.