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Voters Know Outside Spending and Dark Money Undermine Democracy

Seth Endo

On November 10, 2014, the Brennan Center for Justice released a new report, Outside Spending and Dark Money in Toss-Up Senate Races: Post-election Update, which describes the rise in spending by outside groups—many of which do not publicly disclose all of their funds’ sources—in eleven competitive races. Highlights of the report include:

  • Outside groups spent at least $342 million on campaign expenditures in just the eleven races examined in the report, a significant increase from the $259 million spent in all 33 contests in 2012
  • Winning candidates were supported by $127 million from groups that do not reveal all of the sources of their funds
  • From the information available, the wealthy elite are the predominant funders of outside spending

After taking a moment for those facts to sink in, recall that a poll of 2012 voters found that 64% of voters said that “democracy was undermined [] by big donors and secret money.” And, unfortunately, as the Brennan Center report illuminates, things are just getting worse.

But we can work together for a more inclusive, participatory democracy. The same poll of 2012 voters showed that 85% supported increased disclosure of outside money. A majority also supported public funding schemes. These two reforms that can be enacted right now.

Additionally, 78% of the poll’s respondents agreed that there was a need for reasonable limits of campaign spending. Such a proposal would require a change in the law. But there is an on-going effort to restore an understanding that the Constitution is meant to ensure a democracy that works for all Americans, not just the very wealthy.