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Experts Available to Discuss How Money Distorts Elections

Nov. 4, 2014

Experts Available to Discuss How Money Distorts Elections

Public Citizen Follows the Money, Reports on Super-Connected Candidates

Contact: Barbara Holzer (202)588-7716
Karilyn Gower (202) 588-7779

Dark money, as well large amounts of disclosed money from outside groups, unjustly reshape elections in much the same way that a funhouse mirror distorts your reflection. What you see no more resembles the real you than these elections resemble a genuinely democratic voting process.

Enabled by the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, billionaires and corporations have grabbed control of our elections. More money than ever is being spent – an estimated $4 billion for this year’s elections, which is a record for a midterm, though the actual total will surely be higher when the final reports are filed.

But more significant than the actual amounts are the rising expenditures by outside organizations – super PACs, trade associations and so-called social welfare organizations that do not disclose their donors and are not connected to the candidates. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, $480 million in outside money already has been spent this election cycle. These organizations concentrate their spending on the close races – often spending far more than the candidates themselves – so their influence is concentrated where it matters most. What’s more, at least 57 outside groups that can accept unlimited contributions have devoted all of their resources to supporting a single congressional candidate this election cycle, as detailed in Public Citizen’s latest analysis on outside spending, “SuperConnected 2014.”

Public Citizen President Robert Weissman said:

“It matters a great deal who prevails in today’s elections, but no matter the result, we know that the corporate class has already won. With billionaires and giant corporations throwing hundreds of millions of dollars into tightly contested elections, they are defining election narratives, exerting huge influence over outcomes and determining in significant ways what Congress will – and will not – do after the last votes are tallied.

This must be the last Dark Money election. Immediately after the election, the Securities and Exchange Commission should adopt a rule to require companies to disclose their political spending. Then the American people must join together to demand a replacement of the current campaign funding system with a funding mechanism reliant on small donors and public funds, as well as the enactment of the 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to overturn decisions like Citizens United that have enabled the corporate class’s takeover of our elections.”

By flooding the airwaves with political ads for the candidates who will best serve their interests, these big money donors are calling the shots in 2014 like never before. According to the Sunlight Foundation, voters in Arkansas, Iowa and New Hampshire – all of which are in the midst of competitive U.S. Senate races – likely have seen more than $30 spent by outside groups for every individual voter. In an extreme example of how much these groups are willing to spend, the Sunlight Foundation estimates that $120 per voter was spent in Alaska’s U.S. Senate race.

To enhance your coverage of the midterm elections, please contact one of the numbers above to arrange an interview with a Public Citizen expert:

  • Robert Weissman, president, Public Citizen
  • Lisa Gilbert, director, Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division
  • Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist, Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division