Reclaiming Our Democracy

In 2012, Super PACs grew drastically, and they exemplify the strengthened grasp big money has on our elections: Just 47 individuals, donating $1 million or more, were responsible for more than half the individual contributions to Super PACs — and only 6 percent came from donations under $10,000.

GET BIG MONEY OUT OF OUR ELECTIONS

Special interest money has long had a corrosive effect on our politics, but in 2010, the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision unleashed a new era of unprecedented spending by a handful of millionaires and corporations on our elections.

Since, then we've seen so-called “uncoordinated” outside campaign financiers on track to spend in 2012 over three-times more than in the record-breaking 2008 election. This wave of outside cash threatens to drown out the voices of ordinary citizens in our democracy.

We still don’t, and may never, know the specific interests behind this growing trend, but we know how to fight back: by building the case — one community, one state, even one corporation at a time — for overturning the entirety of the Citizens United decision through a constitutional amendment.

In the meantime, we're also working on several short-term strategies to stanch the flow of big money in our elections.

• Taking the fight directly to corporate political donors (and would-be donors)

We’re partnering with shareholder advocacy groups in pressing corporations such as Target and Bank of America to refrain from spending on political campaigns, and we’re also supporting the Shareholder Protection Act, a bill that would require corporations to seek the explicit approval of shareholders before spending a dime in electoral politics.

• Forcing political spending into the light of day

Our researchers have documented the rise of Super PACs and other groups funneling secret money into our elections, exposing some of the funding sources for these campaign finance behemoths, but we're also prodding our state and federal lawmakers to implement more thorough disclosure laws.

• Amplifying the power of small donors

Encouraging millions of everyday Americans to small contributions can help counterbalance the influence of special interests in our elections. We are working with federal and state legislators to implement programs like tax credits, campaign vouchers, and matching public funds to create a swell of grassroots funding.

Ultimately, we must amend the Constitution to clarify to the Court that our democratic elections were never intended as a tool for special interests to drown out the voices of others. Hawaii, Vermont, Rhode Island, Maryland, New Mexico, Montana, California and Massachusetts have gone on record taking a stand against Citizens United, and so have 300-plus communities across the country. But there is more work to be done, more doors to knock on, and more communities to organize to boldly force big money out of our elections.

Issue updates

Report | PennPIRG Education Fund and Demos | Democracy

The Dominance of Big Money in the 2014 Congressional Elections

In 2014, large donors accounted for the vast majority of all individual federal election contributions this cycle, just as they have in previous elections. Seven of every 10 individual contribution dollars to the federal candidates, parties, PACs and Super PACs that were active in the 2013-2014 election cycle came from donors who gave $200 or more. Candidates alone got 84 percent of their individual contributions from large donors.

> Keep Reading
Report | PennPIRG Education Fund | Democracy

Big Money Dominates in Congressional Primaries

Our analysis of fund-raising data from 2014’s congressional primaries examines the way these dynamics are playing out state by state across the country. While some states show markedly more inequity than others, the picture painted by the data is of a primary money race where large donors carry more weight than ordinary Americans. Nationwide, just under two-thirds of all candidate contributions came from the largest donors (those giving over $1,000). And fewer than 5,500 large donors matched the primary contributions coming from at least 440,000 donors nationwide.

> Keep Reading
News Release | PennPIRG | Democracy

ON DAY OF ORAL ARGUMENT IN MCCUTCHEON V. FEC, GROUPS GATHER TO PUSH BACK ON BIG MONEY IN POLITICS, DEMAND SOLUTIONS

Today PennPIRG, The Sierra Club, UFCW 1776 Local, Common Cause, Philly Rootstrikers, WolfPAC, JustLaws, and State Representative Mark Cohen gathered at the James A. Byrne Courthouse to push back on the power of big money in elections, as the U.S. Supreme Court today heard oral arguments in McCutcheon v. FEC. Advocates say the case would further increase the electoral clout of a few large donors.

> Keep Reading
Report | PennPIRG | Democracy

Elections Confidential

“Elections Confidential” describes how secret donors poured hundreds of millions into the 2012 election through “social welfare” non-profits that are really political vehicles and via shell corporations formed as conduits to hide a funder’s identity.

> Keep Reading
News Release | PennPIRG | Democracy

New Report Shows Impact of Big Money in the 2012 Election

32 Super PAC Mega-Donors Match Total Giving of 3.7 Million Presidential Campaign Small Donors; Nearly Half of TV Ads in Presidential Race Funded by “Dark Money”

> Keep Reading

Pages

News Release | PennPIRG | Democracy

ON DAY OF ORAL ARGUMENT IN MCCUTCHEON V. FEC, GROUPS GATHER TO PUSH BACK ON BIG MONEY IN POLITICS, DEMAND SOLUTIONS

Today PennPIRG, The Sierra Club, UFCW 1776 Local, Common Cause, Philly Rootstrikers, WolfPAC, JustLaws, and State Representative Mark Cohen gathered at the James A. Byrne Courthouse to push back on the power of big money in elections, as the U.S. Supreme Court today heard oral arguments in McCutcheon v. FEC. Advocates say the case would further increase the electoral clout of a few large donors.

> Keep Reading
News Release | PennPIRG | Democracy

New Report Shows Impact of Big Money in the 2012 Election

32 Super PAC Mega-Donors Match Total Giving of 3.7 Million Presidential Campaign Small Donors; Nearly Half of TV Ads in Presidential Race Funded by “Dark Money”

> Keep Reading
News Release | PennPIRG | Democracy

Philadelphia Organizations, Citizens, and Elected Officials Hold Press Conference and Rally to Overturn Citizens United

Today at a press conference and rally, a diverse coalition of more than 20 organizations, elected officials, faith groups, and citizens gathered at LOVE Park and braved the cold to mark the third anniversary of the Citizens United court decision and call for the reversal of a big money system that favors powerful special interests over the public interest.

> Keep Reading
News Release | PennPIRG Education Fund | Democracy

Vast Majority of PA College IDs Not Valid for Voting

April 12, PHILADELPHIA - A recent study released today by PennPIRG and a broad coalition of voter protection groups found that Pennsylvania’s new photo ID voting law could potentially disenfranchise more than 80% of the state’s college students. 

 

> Keep Reading
News Release | PennPIRG Education Fund | Democracy

New Report Released: Auctioning Democracy: The Rise of Super PACs and the 2012 Election

Philadelphia, PA – Today the PennPIRG Education Fund and Demos released a new analysis of the funding sources for the campaign finance behemoths, Super PACs. The findings confirmed 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.

 

> Keep Reading

Pages

Report | PennPIRG Education Fund and Demos | Democracy

The Dominance of Big Money in the 2014 Congressional Elections

In 2014, large donors accounted for the vast majority of all individual federal election contributions this cycle, just as they have in previous elections. Seven of every 10 individual contribution dollars to the federal candidates, parties, PACs and Super PACs that were active in the 2013-2014 election cycle came from donors who gave $200 or more. Candidates alone got 84 percent of their individual contributions from large donors.

> Keep Reading
Report | PennPIRG Education Fund | Democracy

Big Money Dominates in Congressional Primaries

Our analysis of fund-raising data from 2014’s congressional primaries examines the way these dynamics are playing out state by state across the country. While some states show markedly more inequity than others, the picture painted by the data is of a primary money race where large donors carry more weight than ordinary Americans. Nationwide, just under two-thirds of all candidate contributions came from the largest donors (those giving over $1,000). And fewer than 5,500 large donors matched the primary contributions coming from at least 440,000 donors nationwide.

> Keep Reading
Report | PennPIRG | Democracy

Elections Confidential

“Elections Confidential” describes how secret donors poured hundreds of millions into the 2012 election through “social welfare” non-profits that are really political vehicles and via shell corporations formed as conduits to hide a funder’s identity.

> Keep Reading
Report | PennPIRG and the PFAW Foundation | Democracy

Outside Spending, Outsized Influence

The 2012 elections were by far the most expensive in history thanks primarily to the tidal wave of outside, special interest money triggered by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. The federal Senate and House races in Pennsylvania, where outside groups spent nearly $12 million, were no exception.

 

> Keep Reading
Report | PennPIRG and Demos | Democracy

Billion-Dollar Democracy

The first presidential election since Citizens United lived up to its hype, with unprecedented outside spending from new sources making headlines. Demos and the PennPIRG Education Fund's analysis of reports from campaigns, parties, and outside spenders to the Federal Election Commission found that our big money system distorts democracy and creates clear winners and losers: Wealthy Donors Over Average Citizens, Special Interests Over the Public Interest, Incumbents Over Challengers & Grassroots Candidates, Secret Spenders Over Voters Seeking Accountability.

 

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post | Democracy

MAKING SUPER PACS ILLEGAL | Alana Miller

A new Washington Post- ABC News poll shows that almost 7 out of 10 voters believe that super PACs, the independent expenditure only committees created in the wake of the Supreme Court’s disastrous Citizens United decision, should be illegal. Super PACs are not responsible for all problems with American democracy, however, they do amplify those troubles so it is no surprise that the public is crying out in opposition to them.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Democracy

Corporations that Spend More on Lobbying than Taxes | Phineas Baxandall

Two years ago the Supreme Court's misguided Citizens United decision struck down long-standing Congressional limits on the political power of large corporations by vastly expanding the legal metaphor that "corporations are people." Now there is fresh evidence that corporate influence over Congress makes it easy for those same corporations to avoid their civic duty of paying taxes.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Democracy

Reducing political access of powerful interests

The new Congress deserves credit for quickly and strongly responding to the scandals of last year by passing sweeping changes to the rules that will reduce the special access of wealthy and powerful interests in Washington.  It was a critical first step. We now urge you to finish the job by supporting legislation that will ensure that the new rules will be adequately enforced.  Today, we ask you to be a co-sponsor legislation introduced by Sens. Lieberman, Collins and Obama to enforce the rules.

> Keep Reading
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You Can Help

We have a chance to curb the unprecedented spending by big money in our elections. Your support will help us do the research, advocacy and grassroots organizing to convince our elected officials to act.

JOIN THE CALL

Already 300-plus communities and seven states have gone on record calling for a constitutional amendment. Make sure you town has joined the call to stanch the flow of special interest money in our elections.

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