Tiny group of super-rich donors dominate primary

Super PACs now spending more money than the official campaigns, and it's raised from millionaires and billionaires

By Justin Elliott

Published January 17, 2012 3:16PM (EST)

A screenshot from an ad put out by a pro-Newt Gingrich super PAC, Winning Our Future.
A screenshot from an ad put out by a pro-Newt Gingrich super PAC, Winning Our Future.

The Washington Post has a good story checking in on the reality of the extremely deregulated campaign finance regime we’re living under:

There are probably fewer than 100 people who are fueling 90 percent of this outside money right now,” said David Donnelly, national campaigns director at the Public Campaign Action Fund, an advocacy group favoring limits on political spending. “When you think about the amazing impact that this small number of people have on deciding the election, on the information that people will have on who to vote for, it’s mind-boggling.”

In total, these new and unrestrained political action committees [super PACs] spent more than $15 million supporting GOP candidates in Iowa and New Hampshire and are now outspending the official campaigns in South Carolina by 2 to 1, according to advertising and expenditure data.

(Emphasis added.)

As I explored last fall, there are just a few dozen people who are providing the vast majority of funds collected by the super PACs. So far we’ve seen the results on the GOP side; stay tuned for when the Democratic groups spring into action. Ken Vogel at Politico has a useful look at three of the billionaires who are among the biggest donors on the GOP side.

We’re in for another 10 months of exactly this sort of story. And at least the super PACs have to reveal their donors. There’s an entire separate category of political group – so-called social welfare organizations – that are expected to blanket the country with advertising but don’t have to reveal their donors. Ever.

Justin Elliott

Justin Elliott is a reporter for ProPublica. You can follow him on Twitter @ElliottJustin

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