News & Politics

Appalling: Citizens United Unleashed Almost 80% of This Year's Election Spending

SuperPACs account for lion's share of this year's spending.

Photo Credit: Matthew Bradley via Flickr

Cash is flowing into the 2012 campaign's coffers, but not the way it once did thanks to Citizens United unleashing an onslaught of outside money into the race--and in the Presidential arena, most of it is going to Mitt Romney.

An ongoing study by the Sunlight Foundation reveals just how much of the new advertising and campaigning landscape is dominate by SuperPACs--almost 80%, or 4 out of every 5 dollars.

They report on their most recent numbers today:






The latest signal of just how profitable a business politics remains is available on Sunlight's Follow the Unlimited Money, which shows outside spending at nearly $465 million as of Sunday evening. That's more than the total for the entire 2010 campaign, the first that took place following the Supreme Court's landmark Citizens United decision, which allowed corporations and unions to give in unlimited amounts.






Chart showing independent expenditures

While a lot of left-leaning contributions are going into mailers and get out the vote efforts, the foundation reports targeted efforts to oust or prevent the election of representatives coming from both sides.






Republican-leaning independent groups appear to be putting their money into big-dollar expenditures. Crossroads GPS, a non-profit formed after the Citizens United decision by veteran GOP operatives Ed Gillespie and Karl Rove, reported spending more than $400,000 in Nevada last week on a media buy against Rep. Shelley Berkley, the Democratic Senate candidate in the state.

The National Rifle Association on Friday put nearly $200,000 into media buys against two Democratic House candidates, Patrick Kreitlow in the state's 2nd Congressional District and James Wall in the 3rd CD.

And yet, analysis of the data at The Guardian shows that while both sides are playing the game, the side with the billionaires and corporate behemoths is winning the race:






Looking at the money spent supporting rather than opposing candidates, Romney comes out on top, with $15.7m spent in his favour. Gingrich comes second, having had $13.5m invested in his bid for the presidency. Just $6.4m of outside money has been spent in support of Obama.

Sarah Seltzer is a freelance writer based in New York City. Her work has been published at the Nation, the Christian Science Monitor, Jezebel and the Washington Post. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahmseltzer and find her work at