In ID, KY, OR, Big Money Continues to Win Congressional Primaries

83% higher fundraising candidates win congressional primaries in 2016 elections

U.S. PIRG Education Fund

WASHINGTON, DC – On Tuesday, congressional candidates in Idaho, Kentucky and Oregon competed in primaries for the House and Senate. Higher fundraising candidates won the vast majority of these races, repeating a trend that has so far defined elections in Illinois, Texas and nine other states which have held their congressional primaries. According to an analysis by U.S. PIRG Education Fund, 82.9 percent of higher fundraising candidates have won their congressional primaries so far in the 2016 election cycle.

“At every level of politics, big money has become a determining factor in our elections,” said Dan Smith, Democracy Campaign Director for U.S. PIRG Education Fund. “Whether it’s the presidential race or a more local contest, candidates have to rely on high-dollar donations just in order to compete for office. That process consistently shuts out qualified candidates who don’t have connections to wealthy donors or a personal fortune they can run on. Our elections should be about big ideas, not big checks, and it’s time we start implementing solutions that reduce the influence of money in elections and put regular voters in the driver’s seat. 

View congressional primary winners by fundraising receipts.

On Tues., May 17, candidates competed in congressional primaries for seats in Illinois, Ohio, and North Carolina. U.S. PIRG Education Fund added the results of these primaries to an earlier examination of congressional victories in eleven states which have already held congressional primary elections. Races included in U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s study featured at least two candidates with at least one candidate who raised funds for their election. Out of the 123 congressional primaries studied so far in the 2016 election cycle, only 21 were won by candidates who raised less funds than their opponent. 82.9 percent of higher fundraising candidates won their race and now head to the general election.

In Nov. of 2015, Maine and Seattle voters strongly approved clean election ballot measures to help refocus state and local elections on ordinary people over special interests and mega-donors. Localities including Arizona, South Dakota, Miami Dade County, D.C., Chicago, and Los Angeles are now considering similar legislative and regulatory reforms to empower small donors over special interest groups and big contributors in their elections. This year, California and Washington State may put referenda on the ballot asking voters whether they support overturning Citizens United, the Supreme Court decision that opened elections to super PAC and corporate spending. Advocates are also campaigning in Washington State for a ballot measure to create a statewide small donor empowerment program and pass new transparency and accountability measures.

Polls show that a vast majority of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents support overturning Citizens United and revamping campaign finance laws in the United States. This April, thousands of activists flooded Washington, D.C., to demonstrate for reforms as part of Democracy Awakening, a three-day mass mobilization supporting voting rights and fair elections. 

View congressional primary winners by fundraising receipts.




With public debate around important issues often dominated by special interests pursuing their own narrow agendas, U.S. PIRG Education Fund offers an independent voice that works on behalf of the public interest. U.S. PIRG Education Fund, a 501(c)(3) organization, works to protect consumers and promote good government. We investigate problems, craft solutions, educate the public, and offer Americans meaningful opportunities for civic participation.