By Adam Crowther
The U.S. Supreme Court was so determined to treat outside groups fairly in its 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (FEC) decision that it put these groups on course to supplant the candidates themselves as the dominant voices in our elections.
That is the finding of a newly released Public Citizen report, Outside Money Takes the Inside Track. The report compares spending by outside groups, which were permitted as a result of Citizens United to use unlimited contributions to influence elections, with that of candidates and national parties, which are subject to contribution limits.
Our findings: There is a tectonic shift in how American campaigns are being funded. Outside groups surpassed candidate spending in four of the 10 most expensive U.S. Senate races this year. That had only happened once in the last four election cycles (in 2010, which also postdated Citizens United). Outside groups’ spending this year nearly equaled that of the national parties. In no election cycle since 2004 had outside groups spent as much as a third as the parties (and that was also in 2010). Meanwhile, outside groups spent more money in the 2012 election cycle than the past four cycles combined. More