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Money in Politics Facts

How Much Money Are We Pouring Into Elections? Take a look at These Money In Politics Facts

We all know that money plays a big roll in politics and elections in the US. But just how much is being spent and what is it going to? We have prepared the money in politics facts that you need to know.

Money Spent on Elections

Let’s start with money in politics facts surrounding elections. In the US, our most recent election was in November of 2014. These mid-term elections cost a grand total of $3.7 billion. This number has only risen by a small percentage; the last mid-term election in 2010 ran $3.6 billion. Take a look at the following graphs from opensecrets.org.

total costs of elections - opensecrets.org2014 Midterm election breakdown - opensecrets.org

But let’s be honest, we want the to know the real money in politics facts. How much do we spend on presidential elections? And better yet, how much will we spend on the 2016 presidential election? And even more importantly, who else is spending money on these elections? Some sources have estimated that the total the costs of the election could be near the $10 billion mark.  If you take a look at the bar graph above you can see that this is not outside the realm of possibility. The amount of money we’re spending on elections is increasing at a scary rate. The top candidates in 2016 will most likely pay upwards of $2 billion each. This is double the amount that Barack Obama and Mitt Romney ended up paying in the 2012 presidential race.

Money wins elections. Statistics say that 91% of the time the candidate with the most money wins the election. And candidates remember this while they are in office. Most politicians want to be re-elected and elected officials, including members of congress, now spend 30% to 70% of their time IN OFFICE fundraising for their next election.

Money Spent on Legislation

Elections are extremely important in a democratic government because we are choosing our elected officials. We need to consider the money thrown at them once they are in office. Princeton completed a study which found that, “When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.” This applies to the bottom 90% of income earners in the US, which means most voters have almost no impact on US law. So who controls and makes the laws in the US? This data points point to the top 10% of income earners.

Check out these money in politics facts from the last 10 years. The numbers reveal the amount each industry spent to influence the US government.

Pharmaceutical: $2.16 billion.

Energy: $2.93 billion.

Defense: $1.26 billion.

Finance: $4.29 billion.

Agribusiness: $1.21 billion.

Communications: $3.5 billion.

In the last 5 years, the top 200 most politically active companies in the US spent $5.8 billion on lobbying and campaign contributions. In 2013, bank lobbyists even went to the extent of helping draft legislation for the financial industry. Specifically, Citigroup’s recommendations could be seen in roughly 70 lines of a House committee’s bill. The bill had a total of 85 lines.  The examples go on. In 2013, Wall Street groups helped set up fundraisers for lawmakers who co-sponsored certain bills.

This video details just how bad the problem is of money in politics.

Super PACS

To understand the money in politics facts, it’s important to know the terms.

A PAC is a Political Action Committee. PACs are created and exist for the purpose of raising and spending money on elections. A PAC can represent anything from an ideological interest, or a certain type of labor or business. PACs are limited to what they can spend money on. According to current PAC regulations, a PAC can give $5,000 to a candidate per election, $15,000 annually to any national party committee, and $5,000 annually to any other PAC. PACs are also limited to the amount they can receive from an individual entity. Each person, party committee, or PAC can only donate $5,000 to another PAC.

The first PAC was created in 1944. The Congress of Industrial Organizations created a PAC to raise money for President Franklin D. Roosevelt to be re-elected. The main purpose was to get around the law that forbade donations to federal candidates by unions.

But what is a Super PAC? A Super PAC is essentially an organization that can help with independent expenditures in federal races. These include running ads on TV or sending mail. Basically anything that aids in the messaging for a candidate or election. A Super PAC cannot make contributions to specific candidates or parties, but the big advantage to a Super PAC is that there is no limits or restrictions to the amount of money it can take or give.

opensecrets.org reveals outside spending for groups such as Super PACs. In just 2012, 1,310 Super PACs raised a total of $828,224,700 and spent $609,417654.

Stephen Colbert, a well known television host and a comedian, explains just how easy creating a Super PAC is. He even set up a Super PAC for himself.

Citizens United

Citizens United refers to a US constitutional law case called Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The United States Supreme Court ruled in January of 2010 that the First Amendment prohibited the government from restricting independent political expenditures by a nonprofit corporation. The ruling in the case extends the same free speech rights to for-profit corporations, and labor unions.

Citizens United opened the flood gates. Now more and more money can be poured into politics, and the Supreme Court decision made Super PACs seem almost innocent. People are able to take advantage of the loop hole of nonprofit social welfare groups which are classified as 501(c)(4)s. With these groups individuals can raise and spend money on political endeavors without identifying their sources. Previously individuals had to create a shell corporation and transfer money into a Super PAC to remain anonymous.

Citizens United has allowed the use of “dark money,” a.k.a. anonymous donations, in the political spectrum. Since the ruling on this case, over $600 million in dark money has been spent on elections.

Big Donors

As the statistics above have revealed, our political environment is being influenced more and more by the wealthy elite. But who are they?

The most famous political donors today are Charles and David Koch, who have budgeted $889 million for the 2016 election. This amount is unprecedented for a single group to spend on an election. The Koch brothers are heads of Koch Industries, the nations largest private company, which currently has a yearly revenue of $115 billion . Both brothers are on the Forbes top billionaires list. They both occupy the number 6 spot with $42.9 billion each.

The Koch brothers are well known and try to advance libertarian causes. They do have a competitor though. Their progressive counterpart is George Soros, Chairman of the Soros Fund Management valued at $1.2 billion. Soros is ranked number 2 for Forbes highest earning hedge fund managers and the number 29 billionaire with a net worth of $24.2 billion.

opensecrets.org has revealed the following financial information about these big donors.

PAC spending from 2000 t0 2014.

Koch Industries: $16.03 million   Soros Fund Management: $0

Lobbying expenditures from 2000 to 2014.

Koch Industries: $97.95 million    Soros Fund Management: $260,000

Open Society Policy Center (Soros-Funded): $42.55 million

Individual donations to federal candidates, parties, and PACs from 1989 to 2014.
Koch Brothers: $2.58 million      George Soros: $1.74 million

Individual donations to 527 organizations from 1989 to 2010.
Koch Brothers: $1.5 million        George Soros: $32.5 million


Koch: 118.06 million        Soros: 77.05 million

Typically the Koch brothers donate to Republicans, while George Soros gives to Democrats. The following numbers are from 1989 to 2010 courtesy of opensecrets.org

The Kochs have donated to these congressional members:
$17,100 – Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.)
$7,600 – Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.)
$7,200 – Mark Foley (R-Fla.)
$6,600 – James Inhofe (R-Okla.)
$5,000 – Sam Brownback (R-Kan.)

George Soros has donated to these congressional members:
$6,500 – Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.)
$6,200 – Jon Cranley (D-Ohio)
$6,000 – Ken Salazar (D-Colo.)
$6,000 – Dan Maffei (D-N.Y.)
$5,500 – Tom Perriello (D-Va.)

In addition, both donors have think tanks from which they can funnel even more money into the political sphere. The following groups are associated with the Koch brothers: The Cato Institute, Freedom Partners, Americans for Prosperity, the Reason Foundation, the American Legislative Exchange Council, and the Libre Initiative Trust.  The following groups are associated with George Soros: The Open Society Institute, the Center for American Progress, the Democracy Alliance, and the Institute for New Economic Thinking.

Conclusion: What Do We Think Of The Money In Politics Facts?

At Follow My Vote, we believe every citizen should be able to voice their opinion and be heard. Voting is paramount in our society. The money in politics facts are quite staggering. Do you believe that voting matters less when compared to the influence of money in politics? Some of the statistics quoted above point to this conclusion.

We believe that voting should carry more weight than money in our elections and law processes. If you feel passionate about this issue, help support our case for provably honest online voting or head over to represent.us to help stop corruption in in the US government. Both of these advocacy routes will ensure that voting remains integral to our society.

Some people have argued that more money in the political spectrum offers more means to reach out to voters. More voters can be educated and awareness campaigns can be constructed. But with more money comes the opportunity for scandals and dishonesty.

The real question is, what do you think of these money in politics facts?

About the author: Will Long is the Marketing Manager of Follow My Vote. Hey enjoys following the money trail and providing the money in politics facts that are most revealing. Investigative journalism is right up his alley.


Will Long

Will is the Marketing Manager for Follow My Vote

Comment (1)

  1. Anonymous

    If we are to solve or moderate this issue, are there any countries that have $ in politics regulations that could serve as a good example?

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