“We can have a democracy or we can have great concentrated wealth in the hands of a few, but we cannot have both.” ~ Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis
The 2012 Presidential Election cost a whopping $2.23 billion according to Bloomberg’s Gregory Giroux.
Per the New York Times, the Obama Campaign + the Democratic Party + Priorities USA Action Super PAC raised $1,072.6m and spent $985.7m, while the Romney campaign + the Republican Party + Restore Our Future Super PAC raised $992.5 m and spent $992.0m. 7% of Obama’s money came from Priorities USA Action while 16% of Romney’s came from Restore Our Future, both Super PACs.
In other outside spending: 8 of the top 10 groups went to defeat Obama while only 2 in the top 10 were against Romney—$281.6 million supporting Romney, or against Obama; $68.4 million against Romney. More independent spending totals can be found here.
The Center for Public Integrity recently released their free ebook, Consider the Source, offering analysis of the 2012 presidential race including a compilation of articles tracking outside money and its influence on the election.
In Consider the Source, p. 139, “Super PACs, Nonprofits favored Romney Over Obama,” Michael Beckel and Russ Choma on October 30, 2012, published the below figures:
Contributions raised by Super PACs: Obama – $249 million; Romney – $397 million
Spending by Super PACs and other groups: Obama – $237 million; Romney – $577 million
The spending from outside Republican groups helped keep Mitt Romney viable, but not enough to outperform the Obama fundraising machine on Election Day. The break-out for candidate donors, up to the contribution maximum of $2,500 was:
Obama: 57% under $200, 33% at $200 – $2,499, 11% at $2,500 (max.)
Romney: 24% under $200, 37% at $200 – $2,499, 39% at $2,500 (max.)
Many of the Super PACs were backed by billionaire donors. Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and his family topped the list at $30 million for Mitt Romney. However, Huffington Post reported on October 27, 2012, the Adelson family’s total contribution to GOP candidates was $53.69 million.
It has proved more difficult to find contribution totals for 501 (c)(4) organizations, or social welfare organizations. These groups are also able to raise unlimited funds but are not required to disclose donor names, so there is a lack of transparency.
Per OpenSecrets.org, there are hundreds of millions of dollars off the books and “What remains unknown — and may never fully be accounted for — is how much money secretive “shadow money” organizations spent, with some investing massive sums on ads, but also on unreported and purportedly “non-political” activities, as the election neared. It may take years to determine how much they spent.” This secrecy further degrades the low-level of confidence many Americans have regarding the integrity of our democracy.
Overall the Super PACs and non-profits favored Romney over Obama. While these groups didn’t allow Romney to win the presidency, they definitely helped put him on a more level-playing field with President Obama. From the Beckel and Choma article referenced above, “of all the outside spending in the 2012 election, more that $450 million was dedicated to the presidential election with more than $350 million spent helping Romney and about $100 million spent to help President Barack Obama“ (p. 136).
That’s a staggering amount of money–money spent to influence elections and the electorate as well as to buy influence once the candidates are in office. As written in a previous post, senators and congressmen spend anywhere from 30-70% of their work day fundraising, on the phone or meeting with donors to ask for contributions, instead of legislating.
The Center for Public Integrity reported on February 1 that Democratic Super PACs started 2013 with a cash advantage but GOP Super PACs will not be outdone. Already these outside groups are gearing up for the 2014 midterm elections. John Bolton recently started his own Super PAC that will focus on his foreign policy agenda.
While the money continues to roll in, there are grassroots efforts from organizations whose goal is to overturn Citizens United and restore financial integrity to our elections. A few of those organizations and their efforts will be profiled next week.
Cross-posted at The Feisty Liberal
Consider the Source – free e-book
- Citizens United: California Poised To Become Largest Electorate To Vote On Constitutional Amendment (huffingtonpost.com)
- FEC chairwoman warns of super PAC corruption (publicintegrity.org)
- Chevron Super PAC Contribution Complaint Raises Its Own Questions (huffingtonpost.com)
- Watch Out, GOP: Obama Super-PAC Is Coming for You in 2014 (motherjones.com)