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Rise of the Outsiders


2014 Election Spending by Category from OpenSecrets.org

2014 Election Spending by Category from OpenSecrets.org

The November 4, 2014 U. S. election was the most expensive midterm election in history— one in which outside money from undisclosed sources played an outsized role and the number of small individual donors shrank.

Back in May 2014, NBC News Political Unit launched a new series — Rise of the Oligarchs — observing that wealthy Americans are playing a more powerful role in U.S. politics than at any other time in the last several decades. They profiled four such oligarchs representing all parts of the political spectrum: Sheldon Adelson, Charles and David Koch, Michael Bloomberg, and Tom Steyer.

“Since the seminal 2010 Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court, political spending from outside groups – many of them either created or bankrolled by American billionaires – has skyrocketed from $193 million in 2004 and $338 million in 2008 to a whopping $1 billion in 2012.”

OpenSecrets.org (Center for Responsive Politics) says that “the 2014 midterms may well mark the election cycle in which the small donor got left behind.” They note that of the $3.7 billion spent, “outside groups, which are overwhelmingly fueled by large donors, are picking up more of the tab, candidates are cutting back on their spending, and there are fewer large (over $200) individual donors contributing overall to candidates and parties.

Just before the election, CRP projected that “all outside groups will have spent $689 million. Team Red (composed of conservative or Republican-aligned groups) will have spent $329 million, besting the (liberal and Democratically-aligned) groups in Team Blue, who are projected to spend $315 million.”

Open Secrets has an interesting list of the 2014 top donors to Outside Spending Groups. Not all are conservatives, but Republican and conservative outside groups outpaced the spending of Democratic and liberal ones.

Bill Moyers reports that “Democratic/liberal groups channeled most of their money through organizations that disclosed donors, while their more conservative counterparts relied heavily on secret sources funneling money through political nonprofits.”

Deirdre Fulton, staff writer for Common Dreams reported that “Citizens in dozens of communities voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday for their legislators to pass a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision, which opened the door for the super-rich and corporations to trample democracy.”

Will citizens arise to counterbalance the influence of money or will the situation get worse now that Republicans are more firmly in control of Congress?