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ATLANTA — It took just 32 billionaires and corporations, giving an average of $9.9 million apiece to Super PACs, to match every single dollar that small donors gave to the Romney and Obama campaigns, according to Billion Dollar Democracy, a new report by Georgia PIRG and Demos. Those small donations, which amounted to more than $313 million, came from more than 3.7 million individuals.
“Americans who are wondering why it seems tougher to get ahead or even get a fair shake in today’s economy should look to big money politics for answers,” said Adam Lioz, report co-author and Counsel for Demos. “When a tiny group of wealthy donors fuels political campaigns, they get to set the agenda in Washington, and the rest of us are left to argue over that agenda.”
“The first post-Citizens United presidential election confirmed our fears that the new unlimited-money regime allows well-heeled special interests and secret spenders to drown out the voices of ordinary citizens,” commented Laura Murray, Program Associate for Georgia PIRG.
The report provides a detailed analysis of all federal election spending and fundraising by campaigns and Super PACs. The data uncovers the undue influence that large donors, business interests and secret spenders had in 2012.
For two of the 10 most active Super PACs, corporate donations accounted for a large portion of the funds, making up 18 percent of Restore Our Future and 52.6 percent of FreedomWorks for America’s total contributions.
“Allowing this special-interest money to fund attack ads on candidates distorts our democracy. Corporations are attempting to ensure that our elected officials put industry interests above the common good,” according to Murray.
Billion-Dollar Democracy also found that groups that do not disclose the source of their funds paid for nearly half of all television advertising in the presidential race.
”These dark-money groups hide key information from voters about where they get their money,” noted Murray. “Furthermore, because there’s no one to hold responsible for the content of their advertising, studies show that ads funded by dark money are far more likely to be misleading or just downright lying.”
The report concludes with policy recommendations for every level of government to ensure that ordinary Americans can make their voices heard in our political process. Most importantly, the report calls for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and restore our ability to set reasonable limits on campaign spending.
Georgia PIRG is a consumer group that stands up to powerful interests whenever they threaten our health and safety, our financial security or our right to fully participate in our democratic society.
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