Most people decry the influence of money in politics, which was made worse by the 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Ten years later, the effect of the decision, which spawned the creation of “super PACs” can now be quantified.
The ruling said that corporations were the same as “citizens” and had the right to unlimited free speech in the form of cash donations for and against political candidates so long as they don’t coordinate with a campaign. While super PACs must disclose their donors, those donors can be what are known as “dark money” groups which do not need to disclose their donors.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), political spending by outside groups in local races has grown substantially since the ruling came down. Here’s an excerpt of their analysis. Click here to read it in its entirety.
“Unburdened by contribution limits, it didn’t take long for super PACs to surpass national party committees as the top outside spending groups… Since 2010, each new election cycle is breaking records with ease, with the bulk of the increase coming from a jump in outside spending….
“Although super PACs must disclose their donors, they can accept unlimited contributions from dark money nonprofits that are not required to disclose their donors. Therefore a super PAC can simply list the nonprofit as the donor, keeping the identity of the actual sources of funding secret.”
A second Supreme Court decision in 2014, McCutcheon v. FEC, spurred the growth of individual megadonors by removing the limits on how much an individual donor can give during an election cycle. The result: in 2018, according to CRP, Sheldon & Marian Adelson gave $123 million, Michael Blomberg gave $90 million, and Tom Steyer gave $70 million. With this kind of money injected into local campaigns by non-local influencers -- often running TV ads with distorted facts or outright lies -- it’s no wonder that, according to CRP, 81% of surveyed individuals support a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.