Over the summer, the Sunlight Foundation partnered with Azavea, a Philadelphia-based firm that specializes in mapping and geo-spatial analysis, to create location-based analyses of the federal campaign finance data we display on InfluenceExplorer.com. The partnership produced new and more accurate ways to identify trends in political spending according to location that were previously hard to complete because of complications in the mapping process. Many of the findings were mapped.Continue reading
Why the 2012 election was unusual — and why it wasn’t
Back in the days after the 2012 election, when it became clear that despite losing the popular House vote, Republicans had actually won a sizeable majority in the House, plenty of speculation set in as to why: Was it gerrymandering? Was it geography? Or just luck? Thanks to data from the latest edition of Vital Statistics on Congress (a joint product of the Brookings Institution and the American Enterprise Institute that has just been posted online), we can put 2012 in better historical context. Last year marked the first time since at least 1946 (the first year for which Vital Statistics has data) that one party (the Democrats) won the pluralirty of the popular vote in U.S. House but ended up with less than the majority of seats. While such a reversal of electoral fortune is unusual, a significant disparity between a party’s seat share and vote share is not. Historically, Democrats have benefited from distortions of apportionment much more than Republicans, especially during the 1960s and 1970s.Continue reading
Goodies for big givers in immigration bill
Four defense contractors that would benefit from the immigration bill are getting a big return on their lobbying and campaign finance investment.Continue reading
The Political Spending of 501(c)(4) Nonprofits in the 2012 Election
Throughout the 2012 election cycle, Sunlight followed the unlimited money. From super PACs and corporations to unions and “dark money” we collected, in real time, the political spending reported by these outside groups. With the 501(c)(4) social welfare nonprofits back in the news again (and the IRS’s enforcement of them), we wanted to take a closer look at how these organizations spent money to influence the 2012 election. We often use the term “dark money” to describe these groups since they can spend an unlimited amount on independent expenditures and electioneering communications yet they do not have to disclose their donors. For more information on how to track all types of federal campaign finance disclosures, check out this handy infographic. Overall, dark money groups reported $300 million in independent expenditures in 2012. Of the 50 groups who spent the most, 15 are 501(c)(4) nonprofits. Using our Follow The Unlimited Money tracker, Political Ad Sleuth, Ad Hawk and return on investment calculations, here is how they made an impact in the race for the White House and Congress.Continue reading
Final look at outside spenders’ 2012 return on investment
The controversy over the Internal Revenue Service's targeting of Tea Party groups has put a spotlight on the non-profit groups that played such a prominent role in the 2012 campaign. The groups have become popular conduits for political funds because, unlike political action committees, they do not have to disclose donors to the Federal Election Commission. While most of the groups whose applications the IRS slow-walked were relatively small givers, many groups that did land non-profit status gave big. Check out this page to see the "social welfare" non-profits who made political expenditures in the 2012 election cycle. Because of the interest, the Sunlight Foundation has decided to update the Return on Investment feature we first published the day after the election. This analysis looks at more than 100,000 lines of itemized expenditures made by outside spending groups (super PACS as well as 501(c) non profits) and calculates the amount of money that went toward the desired result on Election Day. Our update accounts for updated filings and amendments at the Federal Election Commission and our own data cleanup. For more details on each group listed below click on the “see ROI breakdown” button. You can sort by general election spending, candidate, support or oppose, and election result.Continue reading
Inside spending: super PACs, dark money groups dominated by political insiders
By suppressing the speech of manifold corporations, both for-profit and nonprofit, the Government prevents their voices and viewpoints from reaching the public and advising voters on which persons or entities are hostile to their interests.
-- from the majority opinion in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission
When the Supreme Court handed down its landmark decision in the Citizen United case three years ago this week, the majority's expressed intent was to allow corporations--both for-profits like Exxon-Mobil and nonprofits like the Sierra Club--to add their voices to the public debate. In practice, an analysis by Sunlight finds, it has created ...Continue reading
Political war profiteers: 20 consulting firms churn 80 percent of super PAC cash
In the three years since the Supreme Court's Jan. 21, 2010 ruling in Citizens United, the super PACs that decision helped to spawn have largely been seen as advertising machines. But an anniversary-eve analysis by the Sunlight Foundation show that they have created a class of super consultants.Continue reading
Happy Birthday Richard Nixon — RIP campaign finance reform?
Tonight, at Washington's stately Mayflower Hotel, just a few blocks from Sunlight's offices, family and former aides to the late President Richard Nixon will gather to celebrate the 100th anniversary of his birth in Yorba Linda, Calif. Who knew that it would also be an occasion for campaign finance reform nostalgia?
It was actually Nixon who, in 1971, signed into law the Federal Election Campaign Act, limiting the amount of money that could be donated to congressional and presidential campaigns and requiring that those donations be reported. And ...Continue reading
The Post-Election Politwoops of 2012
'Tis the season to lick election-loss wounds by covering your tracks. Since the November elections, our Politwoops project has kept an eye on how members of Congress and candidates communicate with the public through Twitter.Continue reading
Which candidates spent the most per voter in 2012?
As we look back on the 2012 election as the most expensive in history, we will see that there were some very, very expensive races. Overall, there were 40 House and Senate races in which at least $20 was spent per eligible voter, and two races (the North Dakota and the Montana Senate races), where at least $50 was spent per eligible voter. The cocktail party tidbits are that in the Montana Senate race, campaigns and outside groups combined spent $64.41 per eligible voter; In the North Dakota Senate race, $56.17 per eligible voter. In the House, the most expensive district was FL-18, home to the controversial and losing Allen West (R). That district received $58.96 per eligible voter.Continue reading