New data shows American voters are severely in the dark when it comes to political spending outside of campaigns. Nearly half of all Americans can't define a super PAC, new data shows, let alone know that less than 1/100 of one percent of Americans account for the majority of such spending.
According to a new study, just over 1,000 people donating $10,000 or more are responsible for 94 percent of money given to super PACs, which are organizations operating outside of official political campaigns empowered to raise unlimited funds from corporations, unions, groups and individuals.
The study was completed by left-leaning advocacy groups the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) and Demos and comes out the same day a Pew Research Poll shows 59 percent of Americans could not define the meaning of "super PAC."
Super PACs were authorized by the January 2010 Supreme Court case Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission, which allowed unions and corporations to make independent political expenditures. A second case, Speechnow.org v. Federal Elections Commission, allowed the size and scope of said expenditures to be unlimited.
The U.S. PIRG study also shows a smaller subset within the 1,000+ highest donors. This subset of only 47 people, giving at least $1 million each, accounted for 57.1 percent of the total of $230 million in super PAC donations.
"Our analysis...shows clearly that unlimited, corporate, and secret money continues to undermine the principle of 'one person, one vote,' and yet our findings are only the tip of the iceberg," Democracy Advocate at U.S. PIRG Blair Bowie said in a statement.
She added, "We offer recommendations for every level of government to fight back against the Supreme Court's warped logic that is distorting our democracy."
Although campaign finance is a regular feature in news and online media, three-quarters of those polled in the Pew survey said they'd heard only "a little" or "nothing at all" about super PACs this election cycle.
Of those who had heard "a lot" about super PACs, 70 percent were able to correctly define the groups. Pew said the numbers are reflective of "the public's low level of awareness about campaign finance and this year's election."
But Bowie and her counterpart at Demos, Adam Lioz Counsel, said this is the time to self-educate on the issue.
"Today's outside spending groups act as megaphones for moguls and millionaires," Counsel said in a statement.
He added, "The more money they pump in, the louder they're able to amplify their voices—until a few wealthy individuals and interests are dominating our public square, drowning out the middle and working classes."
by RTT Staff Writer
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