Ohio PIRG and Allies Mark Citizens United Anniversary, MLK Day With Large Rally, New Data on Election Spending

95% of Outside Spending in Ohio Elections from Out-of-State Groups; 41% of Outside Spending in Ohio Untraceable to Original Source

Ohio PIRG Education Fund



COLUMBUSToday Ohio PIRG and Move to Amend joined with ally organizations to mark Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and the third anniversary of Citizens United v. FEC with an event drawing attention to the threat of unlimited corporate and special interest money in politics.

The “Reclaiming Democracy Forum and March” started in at Progress Ohio with a number of speakers, including Michael Greenman and Greg Coleridge of Move to Amend; Brian Rothenberg of Progress Ohio; Cliff Arnebeck of Common Cause; and Bob Fitrakis of the Free Press. A musical number called “Corporations Are People Too” was performed by Victoria Parks. This was followed by a march to the Ohio Statehouse; over two dozen participants held signs saying “Democracy is for People” and “Money Is Not Speech” and chanted “Corporations Aren’t People, Corporations Are Property.” Under the banner of “Money Out/Voters In,” PIRGs across the country co-hosted events in more than 76 cities in 33 states on and around the weekend of January 18.

“We are facing a dual attack on our democracy – everyday voteres are being disenfranchised while corporations are being hyper-enfranchised,” stated NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous. “We need to fix the fundamentals of our political system if we want to get down to solving our long-term problems.”

At the Reclaiming Democracy Forum, Ohio PIRG released Billion Dollar Democracy, a new report by Ohio PIRG and Demos. The report provides a detailed analysis of all federal election spending and fundraising by campaigns and Super PACs and was accompanied by Ohio-specific data. The data uncovers the undue influence that large donors, business interests and secret spenders had in 2012.  

According to the report, it took just 32 billionaires and corporations, giving an average of $9.9 million apiece to Super PACs, to match every single dollar that small donors gave to the Romney and Obama campaigns. Those small donations, which amounted to more than $313 million, came from more than 3.7 million individuals.

“Americans who are wondering why it seems tougher to get ahead or even get a fair shake in today’s economy should look to big money politics for answers,” said Adam Lioz, report co-author and Counsel for Demos.  “When a tiny group of wealthy donors fuels political campaigns, they get to set the agenda in Washington, and the rest of us are left to argue over that agenda.”

Analysis of outside spending (political spending that is not coordinated through candidate campaigns) showed even more disturbing trends. Ohio-specific data showed that Super PACs spent over $18.8 million on Ohio federal elections. Dark money groups who do not disclose their donors accounted for 41.07% of all outside spending in Ohio House and Senate races. Groups federally registered outside of Ohio accounted for 95.62% of all outside spending in Ohio House and Senate races.

“The first post-Citizens United presidential election confirmed our fears that the new unlimited-money regime allows well-heeled special interests and secret spenders to drown out the voices of ordinary citizens,” commented Tabitha Woodruff, Advocate for Ohio PIRG.

For two of the 10 most active Super PACs, corporate donations accounted for a large portion of the funds, making up 18 percent of Restore Our Future and 52.6 percent of FreedomWorks for America’s total contributions.

“Allowing this special-interest money to fund attack ads on candidates distorts our democracy. Corporations are attempting to ensure that our elected officials put industry interests above the common good,” according to Woodruff.

Billion-Dollar Democracy also found that groups that do not disclose the source of their funds paid for nearly half of all television advertising in the presidential race.

”These dark-money groups hide key information from voters about where they get their money,” noted Woodruff. “Furthermore, because there’s no one to hold responsible for the content of their advertising, studies show that ads funded by dark money are far more likely to be misleading or just downright lying.”

The report concludes with policy recommendations for every level of government to ensure that ordinary Americans can make their voices heard in our political process. Most importantly, the report calls for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and restore our ability to set reasonable limits on campaign spending. To date, seven Ohio cities have passed resolutions calling for such an amendment.

Groups supporting the “Money Out/Voters In” effort nationally include the Federation of State PIRGs, 350.org, African American Ministers in Action, Campaign for America’s Future, Center for Media and Democracy, Citizens For Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the Coffee Party, Common Cause, Consumer Action, CREDO Action, Demos, Free Speech for People, Friends of the Earth, Hip Hop Caucus, League of United Latin American Citizens, Move to Amend, MoveOn, NAACP, National People’s Action, National Women’s Health Network, Organic Consumers Association, People For the American Way, Public Citizen, Rootstrikers, Sierra Club, the Story of Stuff, and United Republic/Represent.Us.