Super PACs: It’s going to get worse


Last week, in putting together five takeaway points from the initial round of super PAC data, my conclusion was “It’s going to get worse.” By which I meant, the amount of money pouring into super PACs was only going to increase as the election heats up and as there is more focus on Congressional races as well.

But, in the interest of showing the obvious in graphical form, my colleague Jacob Fenton calculated the contributions to super PACs by month and by week for us, and there is indeed a clear trend: more and more money going to super PACs with each passing month.

Figure 1 looks at the contributions by month, both in the number of contributions and their combined value. As should be quite apparent, the numbers of both increase pretty steadily over the course of the year, with a slight dip in September, and then really take off on the final three months of the year. Of the $98.1 million contributed to super PACs so far, just under half of that money ($48.9 million) came in October, November, and December of 2011.

Figure 1. 

Figure 2 breaks out the contributions by month and shows a similar trend. Interestingly, there is tremendous boost in individual contributions in mid-October to early November. The biggest jump in contributions by value, meanwhile, comes in the final week of the year, in which almost 10% of the money contributed so far came in.

Figure 2.


For comparison’s sake, outside groups spent $450 million in the 2010 electoral cycle, including  $60 million spent by groups that were allowed to raise unlimited money, and $126 million in undisclosed money. But that was a mid-term election year, and spending is always higher in a presidential election year.

None of this should come as a surprise. But it’s still impressive to see just how the numbers are increasing. If these trends continue, we’re going to have to super-size our charts very soon.

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