Outside Spending, Secret Money and Super PAC Fundraising On the Rise

Media Contacts

New MASSPIRG and Demos Report Analyzes Shrouded Campaign Filings

MASSPIRG Education Fund

BOSTON—The top 5 “dark money” spenders on presidential election ads have reported less than 1% of their spending to the Federal Election Commission (FEC). Unfortunately, this is all that is required by the FEC’s insufficient and inadequate standards, meaning that these spenders are not running afoul of the law.

A new report by MASSPIRG and Demos analyzed outside spending and Super PAC fundraising for the first two quarters of the 2012 election cycle, releasingMegaphones for Millionaires: Super PACs and Unlimited Outside Spending in the 2012 Elections,” providing a detailed analysis of Federal Election Commission data and secondary sources.

The report analyzed available data through June 30th and reveals:

  • Outside spending organizations, which work to influence elections in a way that is not legally “coordinated” with candidates, reported $167.5 million in spending to the FEC. This doesn’t include all types of outside spending.
  • When all types of outside spending on television ads related to the presidential race are taken into account, 50% of the spending has been by “dark money” groups that do not disclose their donors to the FEC.
  • These “dark money” groups spent $53 million on TV ads related to the presidential race alone through July 1, but reported only $420,920 spending on all races through June 30th to the FEC. This means that these groups are currently reporting less than 1% of their spending.
  • The Top 5 outside spending groups account for 58.5% of all reported outside spending in the 2012 cycle.
  • Nearly 60% of the $230 million raised by Super PACs from individuals came from just 47 people giving at least $1 million apiece. Just over 1,000 donors giving $10,000 or more were responsible for 94% of Super PAC fundraising.

Today’s outside spending groups act as megaphones for moguls and millionaires,” said Adam Lioz, Counsel for Demos and report co-author. “The more money they pump in, the louder they’re able to amplify their voices—until a few wealthy individuals and interests are dominating our public square, drowning out the middle and working classes.”

According to report co-author Blair Bowie, Democracy Advocate at U.S. PIRG, “our analysis in Megaphones for Millionaires shows clearly that unlimited, corporate, and secret money continues to undermine the principle of ‘one person, one vote,’ and yet our findings are only the tip of the iceberg. We offer recommendations for every level of government to fight back against the Supreme Court’s warped logic that is distorting our democracy.”

Just this week, the Massachusetts legislature passed a resolution calling on Congress to enact a federal Constitutional Amendment to reverse the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The measure was approved by bipartisan support in both chambers.

Here in Massachusetts, our legislators understand that secret, corporate money doesn’t belong in politics,” said Janet Domentiz, Executive Director of MASSPIRG, “and what this report shows is that the influence of outside spending is sure to have a significant impact on the upcoming election, and is changing what we mean when we talk about democracy.”

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