Election spending by outside groups is concentrated and hidden, new Public Citizen analysis shows

Cross-posted from our mother blog at CitizenVox. We don’t normally cross-post much because we’d prefer you to read their blog just as much as ours, but if you’re not, please add them to your rss feed now!

Of the $176.1 million spent by outside groups using large, often undisclosed contributions to influence the current elections, just 10 groups are responsible for the bulk of the spending, according to a new analysis released today by Public Citizen.

What’s more, 59.9 percent of the money comes from undisclosed sources. Of those contributions that have been disclosed, nearly two-thirds has come from just 0.12 percent of the contributors. The analysis of data from Public Citizen’s Stealth PACs database shows that:

  • Those groups have spent $176.1 million. Of that, $114.6 million, or 65 percent, was spent by only 10 groups.
  • From the 10 groups, money spent on behalf of Republicans has outpaced money spent on behalf of Democrats $79.4 million to $28.5 million.
  • Five groups have spent money on more than 35 races each. Eleven groups have spent money on more than 20 races each.
  • Eighty groups have not disclosed any information about the sources of their money. These groups have spent $105.4 million of the $176.1 million total. Only $70.7 million of the spending – just 40.1 percent – has come from disclosed sources.
  • Thirty groups have entered the fray for the first time in 2010 in the past two weeks.

“Outside group funding is shaking the foundations of our electoral democracy, but the situation is far worse than it seems at first blush,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “A tiny number of organizations, relying on a tiny number of corporate and fat cat contributors, are spending most of the money on the vicious attack ads dominating the airwaves. The vast majority of donors remain hidden behind a veil of secrecy, in many cases of doubtful legality. The biggest surge in funding will come in the next week. And this election cycle’s spending is merely a prelude to something far worse in 2012. The trigger for all this was the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United; the key to repairing our democracy is a constitutional amendment to undo the decision.”

The analysis includes charts identifying the groups spending the most to influence this year’s elections, the groups engaged in the most contests, the races that have been the subject of the most outside spending and the contests focused on by the independent groups that have sprung up in the past two weeks.

The Stealth PACs site allows users to search the expenditures and limited contribution data of independent groups that are intervening in this year’s elections using contributions of more than $5,000 or undisclosed contributions.

The site also enumerates the outside groups’ expenditures on each race, discloses the vendors and other recipients of expenditures of $1,000 or more, and provides links to the FEC filings on expenditure data.


By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.