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TRENTON — It took just 32 billionaires and corporations, giving an average of $9.9 million apiece to Super PACs, to match every single dollar that small donors gave to the Romney and Obama campaigns, according to Billion Dollar Democracy, a new report by the NJPIRG Law & Policy Center and Dēmos. Those small donations, which amounted to more than $313 million, came from more than 3.7 million individuals.
“The first post-Citizens United presidential election confirmed our fears that the new unlimited-money regime allows well-heeled special interests and secret spenders to drown out the voices of ordinary citizens,” commented Peter Skopec, NJPIRG Program Associate.
Billion Dollar Democracy provides a detailed analysis of all federal election spending and fundraising by campaigns and Super PACs. The data uncovers the undue influence that large donors, business interests and secret spenders had in 2012 due to the Big Money campaign system created by Citizens United.
Separate research by NJPIRG and People for the American Way Foundation found that 99% of outside spending in New Jersey House and Senate races came from out-of-state groups – mostly from Super PACs.
“The Citizens United decision opened the floodgates to unrestricted special interest spending in American elections. I appreciate the efforts of NJPIRG and its coalition partners to draw attention to Citizens United and its effects on American politics,” said Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06). “Americans deserve a political system that is fair, transparent, and accountable.”
Marking the third anniversary of the Supreme Court’s contentious Citizens United ruling, NJPIRG and the New Jersey for the Overturn of Citizens United (NJOCU) coalition were joined by Liz Lempert, the mayor of Princeton where a resolution against Citizens United passed in the fall.
NJOCU members highlighted the success of grass-roots efforts in New Jersey to fix the broken campaign finance system. Encouraged by grass-roots support, the New Jersey Senate and Assembly last fall passed resolutions calling on Congress to overturn Citizens United, and cities and towns across the state – including Elizabeth, West Cape May and Franklin – have done the same.
“Americans have to send a message to Washington that government must be of, by and for the people – not of, by and for special interests and corporations,” said Myrna Fichtenbaum, who helped pass a resolution against Citizens United in Lawrence, her home town. “This is a battle of money versus people, and we need all hands on deck.”
“Citizens United threatens to drown out the voices of average citizens,” added Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert. “That has an impact at every level of government.”
Billion Dollar Democracy also found that groups that do not disclose the source of their funds paid for nearly half of all television advertising in the presidential race.
”These dark-money groups hide key information from voters about where they get their money,” noted Skopec. “Furthermore, studies show that because there’s no one to hold responsible for the content of their advertising, ads funded by dark money are far more likely to be misleading or just downright lying.”
The report concludes with policy recommendations for every level of government to ensure that ordinary Americans can make their voices heard in our political process. NJOCU encourages citizens across New Jersey to get involved in this effort by pushing for local resolutions in opposition to Citizens United in their home towns.
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