Purchasing the Presidency: How Citizens United Has Overwhelmed 2012 Spending

Search form

Purchasing the Presidency: How Citizens United Has Overwhelmed 2012 Spending

Purchasing the Presidency: How Citizens United Has Overwhelmed 2012 Spending
Tue, 9/25/2012 - by Adam Gabbatt
This article originally appeared on The Guardian

Almost $465 million of outside money has been spent on the U.S. presidential election campaign so far, including $365 million that can be attributed to the Supreme Court's landmark Citizens United ruling, according to a report released on Monday.

Super Pacs, which came into effect following the 2010 Citizens United verdict, accounted for $272 million of the expenditure in the study, conducted by the Sunlight Foundation, a non-profit organization devoted to increasing transparency in government.

A further $93 million has been spent by corporations, trade associations and non-profits which, according to the Supreme Court's decision, are able to spend unlimited amounts on political campaigning without disclosing the source of their funds.

"This cycle's outside spending mostly comes in the form of 'independent expenditures' supporting or opposing political candidates by unions, corporations, trade associations, non-profit groups and Super Pacs," wrote Kathy Kiely, managing editor of the Sunlight Foundation.

"This money enabled outside groups to run shadow campaigns for or against candidates of their choice."

Kiely said around 78% of outside spending in 2012 – $365 million of the total $465 million – could be attributed to the "Citizens United effect". The 2010 ruling by the supreme court in the case of Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission allowed corporations and unions to spend unlimited money on campaigning, enabling Super Pacs to spend unlimited amounts as long as they had no coordination with the candidates they support.

In reality, those running Super PACs have often have close ties to political parties. Former George W. Bush advisor Karl Rove runs the conservative American Crossroads Super Pac, while Restore Our Future, a pro-Mitt Romney Super Pac, was founded by former Romney aides.

The money spent by Super Pacs, unions, corporations and non-profit groups is more than double what those groups spent in 2010, the first campaign in which the supreme court judgment had taken effect. Although Super Pacs are usually thought of being aligned with presidential candidates, the Sunlight Foundation found that much of these groups' recent spending has been focussed on more localised electoral battles.

"A deeper dive into the data shows that the latest uptick in outside spending is focused on congressional races: even in presidential battleground states, almost all the spending by outside groups is focused on House and Senate candidates," Kiely wrote.

Recent expenditure includes Crossroads GPS spending $400,000 in Nevada against Democratic Senate candidate Shelley Berkley; Workers Voice, an AFL-CIO Super Pac, logged hundreds of expenditures in the $25 to $60 range in Florida, indicating a get-out-the-vote effort for senator Bill Nelson, according to the Sunlight Foundation.

Of $465 million of outside money spent so far in 2012, $460.8 million comes from Super Pacs, corporations and other groups which do not have to register as political groups. An additional $4.1 million comes from "electioneering communications": advertisements or political activities that focus on issues and policies – the oil industry, for example – and encourage voters to support a candidate without mentioning any politicians by name.

The Sunlight Foundation's data shows a heavy skew towards negative campaigning, with $99.2 million so far spent supporting a candidate and $360.7 million opposing a candidate. Some $131.1 million has been spent on communications opposing President Obama, with a relatively small $50.7 million spent opposing Mitt Romney.

The figures also show that $21.3 million has been spent opposing Rick Santorum – a nod to his surprising endurance during the Republican primaries – and $18.8 million has been spent on opposing Newt Gingrich, who won the South Carolina and Georgia primaries before fading from the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

Looking at the money spent supporting rather than opposing candidates, Romney comes out on top, with $15.7 million spent in his favor. Gingrich comes second, having had $13.5 million invested in his bid for the presidency. Just $6.4 million of outside money has been spent in support of Obama.

Article Tabs

tar sands, tar sands bikeride, carbon emissions, bitumen, The Road to Athabasca, Trans Mountain Pipeline

Through discovery of place, through story, and through personal connection with people along the way, we are journeying 1,100 miles to the tar sands of Alberta – and are asking for your support in our venture.

non-violent drug offenses, Million Dollar Blocks

"I tell you what, I wish instead of spending so much money on [incarcerating people], they'd come fill some of these crater holes behind my house."

kayaktivists, Shell protests, Fennica, Arctic oil drilling

Dozens of kayaktivists took to the water to block Shell's Fennica ice breaker from leaving port, while a group of 13 climbers rappelled off a bridge in Portland, Oregon, with enough supplies to last days if needed.

Samuel DuBose, Ray Tensing, police killings, police brutality, police violence, indicted officers

Prosecutors said officer Ray Tensing “purposely killed” 43-year-old Samuel DuBose, an unarmed black man who was pulled over for a missing front license plate.

Frackanpada, anti-fracking movement, fracking bans, anti-fracking camp, fracking resistance, Fracking Ez, Basque anti-fracking movement

“This is the first time fracking activists have got together on this scale internationally – from Kurdistan to Brazil, from Ukraine to Portugal and Algeria," says Catriona of Ireland, who attended the recent Frackanpada.

bank bailouts, fraudulent bank practices, mortgage backed securities, illegal foreclosures, Lanny Breuer, Eric Holder, FDIC, securitized loans, due process, whistleblowers, robosigning, mortgage fraud, revolving door

"The system is largely gamed, broken and corrupted by money, influence peddling and a revolving door."

Posted 6 days 2 hours ago
Black Lives Matter, pepper spray cops, Cleveland police incidents, police brutality, police violence, Ferguson protests, Baltimore protests

The incident occurred Sunday during protests against the arrest of a 14-year-old.

Posted 5 days 2 hours ago
Frackanpada, anti-fracking movement, fracking bans, anti-fracking camp, fracking resistance, Fracking Ez, Basque anti-fracking movement

“This is the first time fracking activists have got together on this scale internationally – from Kurdistan to Brazil, from Ukraine to Portugal and Algeria," says Catriona of Ireland, who attended the recent Frackanpada.

Posted 3 days 1 hour ago
Black Lives Matter, racial injustice, economic injustice, Tia Oso, Patrisse Cullors, white supremacy, Ku Klux Klan, #BernieSoBlack

The recent Black Lives Matter protest at the Netroots Nation conference was a teachable moment for everyone – forcing progressives to pick a side as they shape next year's electoral agenda.

Posted 6 days 2 hours ago

Being sick and having nowhere to turn is terrorizing far too many Americans – as medical fraud, huge price markups and pharmaceutical copyright laws are contributing to growing illnesses and early death.

Posted 4 days 2 hours ago

This week, Aaron Draper invites you to see the humanity in the homeless via external flashes and light boxes. Next, Congress is peddling poison and wants to keep you in the DARK.

Samuel DuBose, Ray Tensing, police killings, police brutality, police violence, indicted officers

Prosecutors said officer Ray Tensing “purposely killed” 43-year-old Samuel DuBose, an unarmed black man who was pulled over for a missing front license plate.

Being sick and having nowhere to turn is terrorizing far too many Americans – as medical fraud, huge price markups and pharmaceutical copyright laws are contributing to growing illnesses and early death.

economic inequality, wealth inequality, income inequality, $15 an hour, Fight for $15, worker strikes, worker occupations, Taft-Hartley Act, Communist Party USA, McCarthyism, fast-food workers

The Oakland-based activist and performer says workers need to look beyond city councils and form a radical new labor movement – through strikes, stoppages and occupations of the workplace.

Greek debt crisis, Troika, Greek anti-austerity movement, IMF, austerity policies

Having spent the last week in Athens talking to ordinary citizens, young and old, as well as current and past officials, I’ve come to the view that this is about far more than just Greece and the euro.

Sign Up