News Release

Report Begins to Uncover the Impact of Super PACs on Our Democracy

For Immediate Release

Washington, D.C. – A new analysis released today of the funding sources for the campaign finance behemoths, Super PACs, confirms what many have predicted in the wake of the Supreme Court’s damaging Citizens United decision: since their inception in 2010, Super PACs have been primarily funded by a small segment of very wealthy individuals and business interests, with a small but significant amount of funds coming from secret sources.

“Super PACs represent much of what is wrong with American democracy rolled neatly into one package,” commented MASSPIRG Executive Director Janet Domenitz. “They are becoming bullhorns, financed by powerful special interests, while the voices of ordinary Americans become mere whispers.”

“Super PACs are like kryptonite for our democracy,” added Demos Democracy Counsel Adam Lioz. “They undermine core principles of political equality in favor of a bully-based system where the strength of a citizen’s voice depends upon the size of her wallet.”

Some of the most striking findings in the report are:

  • Of all itemized contributions from individuals to Super PACs, 93% came in contributions of at least $10,000.  Only 726 individuals, or 23 out of every 10 million people in the U.S., made a contribution this large to a Super PAC. More than half of itemized Super PAC money came from just 37 people giving at least $500,000.
  • 17% percent of all Super PAC money in 2010 and 2011 came from for-profit business treasuries.
  • 6.4% of the itemized funds raised by Super PACs since 2010 was “secret money,” not feasibly traceable to its original source. A month-to-month analysis of spending in 2010 and 2011 suggests that the months leading up to the 2012 election will see an unprecedented surge in secret money.

In Auctioning Democracy, Demos and U.S. PIRG offer recommendations for pushing back on the influence of Super PACs, specifically tailored to the Federal Election Commission, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the White House, the United States Congress, State Legislatures and even Municipal Governments.

“The Securities and Exchange Commission must act immediately to force publicly traded corporations to disclose their political spending,” asserted Domenitz.

“Ultimately, the people must rise up and amend our Constitution to make perfectly clear that the First Amendment is not a tool for use by large corporations and wealthy donors to dominate the political process,” added Lioz.

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Auctioning Democracy includes both a report and a series of infographics, available for use (with attribution).

Explore the infographics 

Read the Auctioning Democracy report here.

View the appendix featuring Business Contributions to Super PACs here.

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