MADISON – Outside spending on the Wisconsin senatorial race has already exceeded $4.5 million. With the presidential campaign heating up and Wisconsin named as a battleground state, more secret money is expected to flow into the state to influence the votes of Wisconsinites. Much about who funds these efforts and how this funding is spent remains a mystery, according to a report analyzing the latest campaign filings.
Today, public policy organizations Dēmos and Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group (WISPIRG) released “Megaphones for Millionaires: Super PACs and Unlimited Outside Spending in the 2012 Elections,” which provides a detailed analysis of Federal Election Commission (FEC) data and secondary sources on outside spending and Super PAC fundraising for 2012 election cycle.
The report finds that the top 5 “dark money” spenders on presidential election ads have reported less than 1% of their spending to the FEC, which is all that is required by the agency’s insufficient standards.
The report analyzed 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. Of this, $12.7 million (7.6% of the total) was “secret money” that cannot be traced back to an original source.
- But, because of gaps in reporting requirements, spending reported to the FEC is only part of the picture. When all types of outside spending on television ads related to the presidential race are taken into account, 50% the spending has been by “dark money” groups that do not disclose their donors.
- The Top 5 “dark money” groups spent $53.0 million on TV ads related to the presidential race alone through July 1, but reported only $420,920 in 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 have accounted for 58.5% of all reported outside spending in the 2012 cycle.
- More than half (57.1%) of the $230 million raised by Super PACs from individuals came from just 47 people giving at least $1 million. Just over 1,000 donors (or 0.00035% of the population) giving $10,000 or more were responsible for 94% of this fundraising.
- Sheldon and Miriam Adelson have given a combined $36.3 million to Super PACs in the 2012 cycle. It would take more than 321,000 average American families donating an equivalent share of their wealth to match the Adelsons’ giving.
“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 with WISPIRG, “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.”
Blair Bowie and Bruce Speight are available for comment. Please see the contact information above.
A multi-issue national organization, Demos combines research, policy development and advocacy to influence public debate and catalyze change. Founded in 2000 and headquartered in New York City, Demos works with advocates and policymakers around the country in order to address economic and democratic inequality. Visit us at www.demos.org.
With public debate around important issues often dominated by special interests pursuing their own narrow agendas, WISPIRG Foundation offers an independent voice that works on behalf of the public interest. WISPIRG Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization, works to protect consumers and promote good government. We investigate problems, craft solutions, educate the public, and offer meaningful opportunities for civic participation. www.wispirgfoundation.org.