In IL, OH, and NC, Big Money Continues to Win Congressional Primaries

91% of higher fundraising candidates win early congressional races in 2016 election cycle


WASHINGTON, DC – On Tuesday, candidates in Illinois, Ohio, and North Carolina competed in some of the first congressional primary races of 2016. Higher fundraising candidates won the vast majority of primaries, building on similar victories earlier this month in Texas, Arkansas, and Alabama. According to an analysis by U.S. PIRG, 90.9% of higher fundraising candidates have won their congressional primaries so far in the 2016 election cycle.

“Up and down the ballot, 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. So far in this election, we’ve seen veterans and cattle ranchers, activists and local leaders, who lost their primary because they fell behind in the race for cash. 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 Tuesday, March 15, candidates competed in congressional primaries for seats in Illinois, Ohio, and North Carolina. U.S. PIRG added the results of these primaries to an earlier examination of congressional victories in Texas, Arkansas, Alabama, and Mississippi. U.S. PIRG’s study included primary races featuring at least two candidates with at least one candidate who raised funds for their election. Out of the 55 congressional primaries studied so far in the 2016 election cycle, only five were won by candidates who raised less funds than their opponent. 90.9% of higher fundraising candidates won their race and now head to the general election.

Polls show that a vast majority of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents support overturning Citizens United and revamping campaign finance laws in the United States. Sixteen states and over 600 communities nationwide have called for an amendment to overturn Citizens United. This year, California and Washington State may put their own referendum on the ballot asking voters whether they support overturning the decision.

In November 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 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.


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