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Tag Archive: Money in Politics

The Political 1% of the 1% in 2012

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Graphics by Amy Cesal and Ben Chartoff


 

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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%

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Dear Philanthropists: How about One Percent for Democracy?

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Here’s something I just learned: The annual budget for political reform groups in the U.S. is a combined $45 million, which amounts to roughly .01 percent of the $300 billion in total charitable giving in 2011. It's also less than one quarter of the Chamber of Commerce’s $200 million annual budget. This funding disparity is a jumping off point for a new symposium over at Democracy: A Journal of Ideas entitled “Everyone’s Fight: The New Plan to Defeat Big Money.” Most significantly, the issue includes a powerful call-to-arms from Nick Penniman and Ian Simmons for the philanthropy community to contribute “One Percent for Democracy”

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Register Now for Big Money, Big Data and Datafest Hackathon Feb 2-3, 2013

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Calling all open government, journalism and data geeks. Please join Sunlight and friends in a bicoastal hackathon on the campuses of Stanford University and Columbia University on Feb 2-3, 2013. Registration is now open. Together, we will tackle how to create apps and sites that show what 2012’s political spending spree will mean for policy in 2013 and beyond. Register now. Do you write code or work with data? Do you want to learn how or enhance your skills? Join us to mine data for stories and visualizations that will help understand how money affects the issues that Congress and state legislatures will be taking up this year. Showcase your skills and knowledge and compete to win prizes.

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Another way to look at money in politics: Its impact on partisan control of state legislatures

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As we continue to debate the impact that money had on the 2012 federal races, along comes a very intriguing paper that looks at the question of spending a bit differently. And finds some rather significant effects. Instead of looking at the impact on individual candidates, Andrew B. Hall, a Ph.D. candidate at Harvard, has looked at the relationship between funding levels and partisan control. And he’s looked at the impact on the state level, and looked at it over several decades. All of which makes his paper, “Aggregate Effects of Campaign Spending” a worthwhile read.

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Why Money Still Matters

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As we continue to over-interpret the data point that was last Tuesday’s $6 billion election, one big question is what to make of the fact that the super PACs and 501(c) dark money groups have spent the last week pointing fingers at each other rather than celebrating – particularly the Republican groups that earned so much scrutiny from the press and so much scorn from those on the left. Does this mean that Democrats’ reactions to Citizens United were overblown, and that money doesn’t really matter? That those of us who fret about the amount of money in politics should just get on with our lives, and care about something else?

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Sunlight’s Priorities for the Next Administration

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Regardless of who wins the presidential election, the next administration will have enormous power to say how open our government will be. We have organized our priorities for the next administration below, to share where we think our work on executive branch issues will be focused, in advance of the election results. From money in politics to open data, spending, and freedom of information, we'll be working to open up the Executive Branch. We'd love to hear any suggestions you might have for Sunlight's Executive Branch work, please leave additional ideas in the comments below. (We'll also be sharing other recommendations soon, including a legislative agenda for the 113th Congress, and a suite of reform proposals for the House and Senate rules packages.) Sunlight Reform Agenda for the Next Administration:

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Did campaign spending buy Bush the 2000 and 2004 elections?

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Did higher levels of campaign spending buy George W. Bush the presidency in 2000 and 2004? And will all the money being spent on this year’s election move voters too? That’s the conclusion of an intriguing new political science paper that estimates that between 1972 and 2004, 13.6 percent of voters “incorrectly” pulled the lever for Republicans in presidential elections, while 8.7 percent “incorrectly” voted Democratic. Study author Sean Richey (a Georgia State University Professor) found that money was a factor. Republicans spend more of it, and that money often buys convincing and/or misleading ads.

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