by Dan Mayer, Legal Fellow at Public Citizen’s Democracy Is For People Campaign, which is working towards a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United v. FEC and limiting the influence of corporations and money in elections.
Six billion dollars. That’s just the reported amount spent to elect or defeat the entire slate of federal candidates in the 2012 cycle.
To be sure, some of the biggest players in the super PAC game weren’t very efficient about how they used the unlimited contributions they took from their ultra-wealthy individual and corporate patrons. Court rulings in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania put some of the most egregious voter suppression efforts on hold while invigorated civil rights groups worked to turn out every eligible voter they could find. Several prominent candidates suffered “legitimate” humiliation and defeat. And apparently, 47 percent of America wasn’t going to vote for Mitt Romney anyway (or so we hear).
Does any of that mean that money doesn’t matter, that the Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission era is over as quickly as it began? Don’t bet your democracy on it.
The Obama campaign outspent the Romney campaign, $549 million to $336 million. The national party committees were close in fundraising (a mere $50 million GOP advantage), but Democrats actually outspent Republicans $814 to $776 million. Outside groups, some disclosing their donors, some not, favored conservatives by $855 million to $406 million in “independent” spending. For all that, in the first full-scale conflagration since Citizen United, the great powers basically fought to a draw, barely moving the lines in Congress.