Campaign Finance and Media

A dive into the nitty gritty of super PACs, media wars, and the art of shaping public opinion.

RECENT POSTS

Where the Super PACs Spend Their Dough

Includes animation

This animation by NPR does a good job showing where the super PACs and campaigns are funneling their cash to buy up airtime for political ads. Forgot California – in the months leading up to election day, it’s all about the battleground states!

Who’s Paying for the Propositions? Follow the Money!

Includes interactive funding chart

Individuals and organizations are spending millions in the 2012 statewide election to get various California statewide propositions passed or defeated. Anyone who’s watched even a smidgen of TV in the last two months can attest to the saturation of proposition-related commercials out there. Often times, the names, affiliations, and locations (they’re often out-of-state) of the funders are intentionally vague – organizations like Americans for Responsible Leadership (who, by the way, has donated $11 million to Prop 32), making it nearly impossible to tell what a funder’s political affiliation or specific agenda might be. So, a little sleuthing can go a long way to find out who’s behind which measure. Bottom line: you always have to follow the money! And the Voter’s Edge project at MapLight – a nonpartisan, nonprofit research firm – makes it pretty easy to track the cash flow. Check out their app:

Leaders of the (super) PAC: This Election, Who Are the Heavy Hitters?

Includes interactive maps and charts

Source: Center for Responsive Politics (www.opensecrets.org)

The 2012 presidential and congressional elections will cost roughly $5.8 billion, making it the most expensive in U.S. history. That’s according to estimates by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, which predicts about a 7 percent increase from 2008’s $5.4 billion price tag. The presidential race, alone, CRP estimates, will cost about $2.5 billion.

$5.8 billion! That’s nearly twice the state of Wyoming’s entire 2012 budget!

The biggest difference in this year’s election is the sharp rise in contributions – and influence – from outside groups, namely Super PACs. Remember that the current races – both presidential and congressional – are the first in which the new, post-Citizens United rules will be in effect. While outside spending groups did exist in previous presidential election cycles, significant legal developments, including the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision – which determined that political spending is a form of protected speech and lifted spending limitations for corporations and unions – have led to a rapid rise in super PACs and other outside spending groups that don’t have to disclose their donors. And that means a deluge of negative campaign ads paid for by organization’s you’ve probably never heard of. Continue reading

Ten of the Most Effective Presidential Campaign Commercials Ever Made

Includes many videos

There once was a time not so very long ago when people actually functioned without television (gasp). And then, just like that, it arrived … and spread like wildfire.

In 1948 less than one percent of American homes had TVs. By 1954 – a mere six years later –  more than half of all American’s had a boob-tube in the house. By 1958, that rate had soared to over 80 percent,  and today hovers at about 97 percent.

Continue reading

When Money Became Speech (the rise of the Super PAC)

INCLUDES: ARTICLE

In the heat of the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries, a conservative political group called Citizens United produced a “documentary” that vilified democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. But when the group tried to run the piece on TV within a month of the primary election, the Federal Election Commission prohibited it from doing so, ruling it a form of corporate “express advocacy” banned by current campaign law on corporate spending. Continue reading

Super PACs: Political Fundraising On Steroids

Includes NPR audio and PBS video

Watch Outside Super PACs Poised to Dominate 2012 Spending on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

If there’s anything you should remember about U.S. campaign finance law, it’s this:

For almost every set rule, there is most likely a loophole for getting around that rule.

Keeping track of America’s campaign finance laws is really difficult. Why? Continue reading