March 24, 2017

Special Interests Triple Broadcast Expenses

Following Citizens United v. FEC (2010) in January, there is no longer a limit for how much can be contributed to “electioneering communications,” which are basically any political broadcasts or commercials 60 days before a general election or 30 days before a primary. In a comparison between September of 2010 and September of the last midterm cycle in 2006, expenses on electioneering communications have nearly tripled in 2010, according to an analysis of the FEC database. Advocacy groups, such as 527 and 501(c)(4) organizations, have spent $9,298,139.48 in September of 2010, whereas expenses of the September during the previous midterm cycle was only $3,219,800, as the chart below shows. In what many argue is a threat to Democracy, special-interest groups have increased spending after Citizens Unitedjust as Left and Right News suggested at the outset of September.

Undeniably, the recent ruling on campaign broadcasts is influencing the election.


  1. When analyzing changes in money over time it can be misleading to use nominal dollar amounts when making comparisons. Due to inflation a dollar today is worth less than it was in years past. so an increase of 289% in nominal spending from 2006 roughly equals a 180% increase in real purchasing power. A dramatic increase in its own right but less than doubling, not almost tripling as you suggest.

    • Thanks for the interesting suggestion. I’ve looked into real purchasing power and according to this website that calculates RPP through 2009, inflation has indeed occurred since 2006, but not at the drastic rate that you suggest. In fact, 2006-2009 inflation is 6.2%. Using this fact, September of 2010 is still 270% more than September of 2006. Also, even though the above calculator doesn’t regard inflation in 2010, including 2010 inflation into the RPP equation would not alter the statistic to a misleading degree. Perhaps you can provide some support for your method.

  2. I like the calculator you suggested, indeed estimating inflation can be done in a variety of ways each with its own benefits and short comings and that one allows you to pick which index you prefer. How I got to that number was to use the calculator found here: and then added the CPI found: to account for 2010 inflation. Apparently 3AM is a bad time to do mathmagics because after trying to recreate the amount I previously had I’m getting 261%

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