Auctioning Democracy

The Rise of Super PACs and the 2012 Election
Released by: PIRGIM Education Fund

Dēmos and PIRGIM Education Fund analysis of Federal Election Commission data on Super PACs from their advent in 2010 through the end of 2011 reveals the following:

• For-profit businesses use Super PACs as an avenue to influence federal elections. 17% of the itemized funds raised by Super PACs came from for-profit businesses—more than $30 million.

• Because Super PACs—unlike traditional PACs—may accept funds from nonprofits that are not required to disclose their donors, they provide a vehicle for secret funding of electoral campaigns. 6.4% of the itemized funds raised by Super PACs cannot be traced back to an original source.

• Super PACs are tools used by wealthy individuals and institutions to dominate the political process. 93% of the itemized funds raised by Super PACs from individuals came in contributions of at least $10,000, from just twenty-three out of every 10 million people in the U.S. population.

Scholarly and public opinion research demonstrates that big-money dominance of campaigns skews American politics because wealthy donors have different life experiences and policy preferences than average-earning citizens.

For example, a Russell Sage Foundation survey of high-earners conducted between February and June of 2011 revealed that:

• Wealthy respondents were nearly 2.5 times more likely than average Americans to list deficits as the most important problem facing our country.

• In spite of consistent majority public support for raising taxes on millionaires, among wealthy respondents, “[t]here was little sentiment for substantial tax increases on the wealthy or anyone else.”

• In spite of recent scandals on Wall Street, “more than two thirds of [survey] respondents said that the federal government ‘has gone too far in regulating business and the free enterprise system.”

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