Special Interest Money Is Growing
As we highlight in the materials in our Clean Election Toolkit, special interest groups utilize PACs, Super PACs, and Dark Money spending to buy influence in politics. Here at CleanSlateNow.org, we have been tracking the money into these groups and how they are used to fund, support, or oppose candidates across the country.
Thanks to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, we can now track money flowing through PACs, Super PACs, and Dark Money groups dating back to 2010, the year the Supreme Court opened the door to Super PAC and Dark Money groups with their ruling in Citizens United v. FEC.
Below are some highlights from what we found:
The first year of Super PACs started off relatively slow, with only 83 Super PACs filing in the first year. In the last 4 years, we have seen an explosion of Super PACs to over 2,300 this year. Total fundraising by those organizations took off even faster – reaching over $800 million in 2012. Super PACs have nearly matched those totals in the 2016 election cycle already, with several months left to raise more. Combined Super PAC fundraising this election cycle will exceed one billion dollars after not existing as recently as the 2008 election.
PACs (Political Action Committees)
PACs have been around a lot longer than their younger siblings of Super PACs, but their numbers and fundraising totals have also seen significant growth in recent years. The number of PACs has grown significantly since 2000, after reaching a low in the 1990s. Likewise, PAC fundraising totals have grown by over $150 million from 2000 to 2014 and are on pace to set a new record high by the end of the 2016 election cycle.
Tracking Dark Money is hard to do because Dark Money fundraising does not need to be disclosed. Dark Money spending only has to be disclosed in Federal Election or in state or local areas that require it, and not until after the money has been spent. More than a billion dollars can be raised, then, the names of the donors may never be disclosed to the public.
State and Local Spending
These trends of increased special interest spending are not limited to Federal elections. As a recent report from the Brennan Center for Justice recently found, dramatic increases in Dark Money spending have become increasingly common in local and state elections throughout the country.
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