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Super Connected: Outside Groups’ Devotion to Individual Candidates Undercuts Assumption in Citizens United That Outside Spending Would Be Independent

Super Connected is a series of reports by Public Citizen that highlights the growing trend of unregulated independent expenditure groups devoted to a single candidate or party. The Supreme Court’s chief rationale in its decision to permit unlimited corporate and union spending to influence elections in its 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision was its judgment that third-party expenditures do not threaten to cause corruption because they are independent. But a growing body of evidence shows that many of the super PACs and other unregulated outside groups that have arisen in the wake of Citizens United cannot plausibly be deemed independent and, as such, are little more than extensions of the candidates and parties that they assist.

January 14, 2015 —  At least 66 outside electioneering groups that could accept unlimited contributions devoted all of their resources to a single congressional contest in the 2014 election cycle. Forty-five percent of super PACs devoted their resources to aiding one candidate. Meanwhile, at least outside eight groups appeared to work in service of the national parties. These groups combined to account for 31 percent of all outside spending by unregulated groups in 2014.

October 14, 2014 —  At least 57 outside electioneering groups that can spend unlimited contributions have devoted all of their resources to a single congressional contest this election cycle. These groups, which had reported spending $49 million on this year’s elections as of as of October 8, make up 42 percent of all unregulated groups that have spent at least $100,000 this cycle.

March 5, 2013 —  An updated report by Public Citizen found that outside spending groups that were either devoted to a single candidate or worked in service of the Democratic or Republican Parties accounted for more than 65 percent of spending by unregulated groups in the 2012 elections.

October 24, 2012 —  Public Citizen’s analysis shows that 60 percent of Super PACs active in this election cycle (through Oct. 16, 2012) are devoted to supporting or defeating a single candidate, and many of these single-candidate Super PACs are founded, funded and/or managed by friends and political allies of the candidate they support.