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

stagnant wages, rising inequality, wealth inequality, income inequality, low wages

The widening chasm between workers’ pay and productivity is “the central component of the wage stagnation story” in the U.S., according to an Economic Policy Institute report issued ahead of the Labor Day weekend.

Ferguson protests, Michael Brown, police brutality, police violence, military-style policing, Loretta Lynch, Darren Wilson

A DOJ report released Thursday denounces poor community-police relations, ineffective communication among law enforcement groups, police orders that infringed 1st Amendment rights, and military-style tactics that antagonized demonstrators.

Guatemala protests, Otto Pérez Molina, immunity from prosecution, Guatemalan Spring, Rigoberta Menchú, human rights violations, Guatemalan Civil War, Guatemala atrocities, School of the Americas

The popular, months-long protest movement led by ordinary people – which some have called the "Guatemalan Spring" – brought justice to the highest echelons of government.

low federal deficit, Federal Reserve, quantitative easing, Public Banking Institute, Reconstruction Finance Corporation

Liberals are celebrating the news that the federal deficit is $59 billion lower this year than last year and defending Obama's record in the process – but making an argument for decreased public investment is doing conservatives’ work for them.

wealth inequality, income inequality, destructive capitalism

From the failure to create jobs to the inability to rescue the environment or provide adequate housing and education, the catastrophe of modern day capitalism is more and more evident by the day – and something's got to give.

Japan Self-Defense Forces, Tokyo protests, Japan security bill

Tens of thousands of people have gathered in front of Japanese parliament to protest against security bills they believe to be unconstitutional, allowing Japanese soldiers to fight overseas in defense of national interests.

Posted 4 days 13 hours ago

Privatization advocates contend that Katrina brought essential reforms to Louisiana’s education system – but the facts tell a different story, as black residents report they live in a city that has yet to recover.

Posted 3 days 11 hours ago
non-GMOs, GMOs, organic school food, The Conscious Kitchen, Turning Green

Not only does this program far exceed USDA nutritional standards, but it ties the health of our children to the health of our planet.

Posted 3 days 12 hours ago
wealth inequality, income inequality, destructive capitalism

From the failure to create jobs to the inability to rescue the environment or provide adequate housing and education, the catastrophe of modern day capitalism is more and more evident by the day – and something's got to give.

Posted 1 day 8 hours ago
Fight for $15, minimum wage, living wage, fastfood workers movement, McDonald's wages

Scott Courtney, who is helping steer the low wage movement through the SEIU and union channels, says "this is about lifting up the 64 million American workers who aren’t making enough to live on.”

Issues of police brutality – like the July killing of Paul Castaway near Denver – are opening the public's eyes to the continuing struggles of Native Americans and other groups unfairly targeted by law enforcement.

Act Out! [27] - Activist Autumn begins, sign the petition & Good Will Hunting rhymes

This week we've got a veritable shit ton happening on the Front Lines, so ready your calendars for the activist onslaught.

Occupy Central, Joshua Wong, Hong Kong democracy protests, Umbrella Movement, freedom of association, freedom to assemble, Hong Kong Federation of Students, Scholarism, Leung Chun-ying

"Today is a political prosecution," said Joshua Wong after his arrest last week. "My involvement in the Civic Square action is the best thing I have accomplished in the four years I've been involved in social student movements."

Freddie Gray, Baltimore protests, police brutality, police violence, Fortress Investment Group, Imperial Capital, The Abell Foundation, purchasing debt, foreclosures

Wall Street hedge fund Fortress Investment Group and L.A.-based Imperial Capital bought up hundreds of small debts — from unpaid water bills to delinquent property taxes — and could take property worth tens of millions of dollars if families can’t pay.

Sign Up