Outside Spending, Outsized Influence

Big and Secret Money in the Pennsylvania Elections in 2012

The 2012 elections were by far the most expensive in history thanks primarily to the tidal wave of outside, special interest money triggered by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. The federal Senate and House races in Pennsylvania, where outside groups spent nearly $12 million, were no exception.  


PennPIRG and the PFAW Foundation


Super PACs, the newly created groups that can raise and spend unlimited funds in elections, spent over $5.9 million on Pennsylvania federal elections.

Nationwide, Super PACs raised 86% of funds from an elite set of ultra-wealthy donors and businesses giving $100,000 or more. Super PACs also received $101,749,662 from business corporations last year. Allowing special interests to fund attack ads on candidates distorts our democracy in an attempt to ensure that our elected officials put industry and out-of-state interests above the common good.

[Outside Spending: 501(c)(4) $3,997,585.18, 33.48%; 501(c)(6) $500,022.00, 4.19%; 527 $1,155,569.96, 9.68%; SuperPAC $5,925,672.01, 49.63%; 501(c)(5) Union $360,000.03, 3.02%; Total $11,938,849.18]


Dark money groups accounted for 37.67% of all outside spending in Pennsylvania House and Senate races. These groups do not disclose the source of their funds, hiding critical information from voters about who is behind the advertising and what interests are backing which candidates.

[Secret Spending: Secret: $4,497,607.18, 37.67%; Not Secret: $7,441,242.00, 62.33%]


Groups federally registered outside of Pennsylvania accounted for 95.24% of all outside spending in Pennsylvania House and Senate races. Out-of-state spenders are likely to put their own priorities ahead of the needs and interests of Pennsylvanians, thus skewing the relationships that Representatives and Senators have with their constituencies.

[Spending Origin: In-State $568,568.77, 4.76%; Out-of-State $11,370,280.41, 95.24%]

Read Billion-Dollar Democracy, our report on federal spending in the 2012 elections, here.