Report: Reclaiming Our Democracy

Distorted Democracy

Big Money and Dark Money in the 2012 Elections
Released by: NJPIRG Law & Policy Center and Demos

This new analysis of pre-election data from the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and other sources by New Jersey PIRG and Demos shows that outside spending in the first presidential election since Citizens United is living up to its hype: new waves of “outside spending” have been fueled by dark money and unlimited fundraising from a small number of wealthy donors.

Outside spending organizations reported $ 1.11 billion in spending to the FEC through the final reporting deadline in the 2012 cycle.  That’s already a 200% increase over total 2008 outside spending. Of the $1.11 billion in reported outside spending, $257.9 million was “dark money” that cannot be traced back to an original source. 

Almost half of all reported outside spending comes from Super PACs, the independent-expenditure-only committees created in the wake of Citizens United, and Super PACs continue to receive the bulk of their funds from a tiny set of ultra-wealthy megadonors:

  • $266.6 million or 60.5% of the 440.9 million raised by Super PACs from individuals came from just 91 people giving at least $1 million.  
  • Just over 1900 donors giving $10,000 or more were responsible for 97% of this fundraising.

“Because of their wealth and the Supreme Court’s equation of money with speech, those megadonors are able to amplify their voices to many times the volume of the small donors,” noted Peter Skopec with NJPIRG.

“On Election Day, we’re all supposed to have an equal say,” said Adam Lioz, Counsel for Demos.  “But, next week a small group of millionaires and billionaires will have more influence than millions of middle class families.”

NJPIRG and Demos are encouraging every eligible American to go to the polls by November 6th to push back on the power of big money.  

“Unlimited, corporate, and secret money continue to undermine the principle of ‘one person, one vote,’” Lioz said.  “It’s more important than ever that Americans use the power of their votes to push back and make their voices heard.”

This is the third release in the NJPIRG and Demos series of analyses on the role of big money in the 2012 elections.  Previous reports are available here and here. This report reflects a comprehensive analysis of outside spending, including figures not available from the FEC. 

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