In the 2012 election 28 percent of all disclosed political contributions came from just 31,385 people. In a nation of 313.85 million, these donors represent the 1% of the 1%, an elite class that increasingly serves as the gatekeepers of public office in the United States.
More than a quarter of the nearly $6 billion in contributions from identifiable sources in the last campaign cycle came from just 31,385 individuals, a number equal to one ten-thousandth of the U.S. population. In the first presidential election cycle since the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. FEC, candidates got more money from a smaller percentage of the population than any year for which we have data, a new analysis of 2012 campaign finance giving by the Sunlight Foundation shows. These donors contributed 28.1 percent of all individual contributions in the 2012 cycle, a record high. One sign of the reach of this elite “1% of the 1%”: Not a single member of the House or Senate elected last year won without financial assistance from this group. Money from the nation’s 31,385 biggest givers found its way into the coffers of every successful congressional candidate. And 84 percent of those elected in 2012 took more money from these 1% of the 1% donors than they did from all of their small donors (individuals who gave $200 or less) combined. This elite 1% of the 1% dominated campaign giving even in a year when President Barack Obama reached new small donor frontiers (small donors are defined as individuals giving in increments of less than $200). In 2014, without a presidential race to attract small donors, all indicators are that the 1% of the 1% will occupy an even more central role in the money chase. The nation’s biggest campaign donors have little in common with average Americans. They hail predominantly from big cities, such as New York and Washington. They work for blue-chip corporations, such as Goldman Sachs and Microsoft. One in five works in the finance, insurance and real estate sector. One in 10 works in law or lobbying. The median contribution from this group of elite donors? $26,584. That’s a little more than half the median family income in the United States. Watch a video summary of The Political 1% of the 1% Continue reading
This week, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman adopted bold new disclosure rules to shine a light on dark money spent on elections in New York. Effective immediately, groups that spend $10,000 or more on state and local electioneering will have to publicly disclose their contributions and expenditures on the New York Open Government website. Nonprofits registered with the state will also be required to report the percentage of their expenditures that go to federal, state and local electioneering. Last week in California, the Senate passed a version of the DISCLOSE Act. If enacted, the bill would require disclosure of donors to outside groups that run political ads. And in Montana, Republican lawmakers this week unveiled a proposal for a ballot measure that would require any entities that spend money to influence campaigns in the state to make public information about their financial supporters. Unlimited secret money has been fueling our elections to an ever-greater extent since 2010, when the Supreme Court decided in the Citizens United case that corporate money could be used to influence elections so long the spending is “independent” of candidates’ campaigns. The Court relied on the mistaken assumption that in the Internet era, such spending would be transparent, noting, “prompt disclosure of expenditures can provide shareholders and citizens with the information needed to hold corporations and elected officials accountable for their positions.” What the Court failed to take into account was Congress’ inability to pass laws that would ensure the public had the spending information needed to hold “corporations and elected officials accountable.” Instead, at least $300 million in dark money was spent during the 2012 election cycle, while Congress continues to sputter along in its effort to create a disclosure regime.Continue reading
Of the roughly 1,040 Pentagon procurement programs–the $99.3 billion part of the Defense budget devoted to purchasing new equipment–some 212... View ArticleContinue reading
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Congress has been delaying implementation of the STOCK Act, largely out of fear over what could happen if disclosures go online. A new report from the National Academy of Public Administration says those fears are well-founded. But its reasoning is flawed, and its recommendations -- which amount to security through obscurity -- are badly wrong-headed. If there are problems with the disclosures mandated by STOCK, let's fix them. Ignoring them and hoping that obscurity will prevent bad things from happening is not only short-sighted, it's dangerous.Continue reading
On January 30th the House of Representatives' Bulk Data Task Force held its second public meeting to outline its efforts and hear from interested members of the public. Yesterday, Daniel Schuman recapped the meeting and discussed some of the many excellent steps the task force has taken, and is planning to take, to make House operations more open. Recently, the House has shown a deep commitment to making its operations open and accessible to the citizens that it serves. But, there can always be room for improvement. At the recent Advisory Committee on Transparency event three speakers presented ideas that, they argued, would improve congressional operations and make the Legislative branch more effective and transparent.Continue reading
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Two new members of Congress, Reps. Rick Nolan, DFL-Minn., and Mark Pocan, D-Wis., will introduce a resolution on Tuesday aimed at reducing corporate influence in politics through an amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
According to Nolan, the amendment would establish that "corporations are not people, and money is not speech." In a press conference Monday, he announced the plan along with representatives from Move to Amend (MTA), a coalition that seeks to eliminate corporate personhood rights. The organization officially launched Jan. 21, 2010, the day that the Supreme Court handed down the Citizens United decision that opened the floodgates ...Continue reading
At last Monday's Advisory Committee on Transparency event, 16 lightning talks were given on transparency-related topics like FOIA, lobbying reform, and opening up congress. The three-minute presentations distilled some of the best thinking by advocates and activists on what the government could do right now to be more open. We're pleased to make those videos available to you.Continue reading