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

Sleeping outside for an iPhone is O.K., but do it in furtherance of democratic expression and you’re in trouble, as protesters discovered during the past several weeks at Parliament Square.

Green is no longer unified, if it ever really was – as Bright Green, Lite Green, Deep Green and Dark Green tribes form around divergent environmental worldviews, theories of change, and ranges of tactics.

Do we or do we not as Americans have the right to know what we are eating? Here are initiatives from Hawaii to Colorado and from Humboldt to Josephine Counties to take back our food supply.

In order to help fund their courts, judges may be threatening people with imprisonment for their debts – and more than a third of U.S. states now allow people with debts to be jailed.

The cohesion between pop culture and politics in the 1960s made it easier to access politically charged art and music – something our generation is still searching for today.

Posted 4 days 23 hours ago

Klein's starting point is valuable for the pro-planet movement, showing the walls that are built by the system – and ourselves – to stop climate action.

Posted 2 days 22 hours ago

“There are many of us here who are homeless because when we came back from fighting, we couldn’t get a job, we had mental problems and there was no assistance for us anywhere."

Posted 2 days 22 hours ago

Heavy industry spending resembles the last-minute infusions of cash for TV ads, mailings, and staff that helped narrowly defeat campaigns for mandatory GMO labeling in California and Washington.

Posted 4 days 23 hours ago

It’s a fairly absurd situation and I’d like to document exactly what happened.

Posted 4 days 23 hours ago

The cohesion between pop culture and politics in the 1960s made it easier to access politically charged art and music – something our generation is still searching for today.

Outside spending "giving wealthy spenders more power than ever to buy influence over our political process and elected officials," says report.

Outside the economy ministry on Sunday, crowds held up brightly lit phones and signs with slogans like "Free Wifi! Free Internet! Free Hungary!" as they called on government to scrap an Internet fee.

The pro-democracy movement has relied heavily on social media and messaging apps to mobilize protesters – and recent arrests from online activity has a "chilling effect" that "scares people away."

ALEC-drafted legislation aims to circumvent local ordinances on environmental protection and animal rights.

Sign Up