March 29, 2017

Leading Special Interest Groups

In a comparison of the first 4 weeks of October 2010 and the first 4 weeks of October 2006, the current midterm cycle has seen a sharp increase in the volume of political broadcasts that special-interest groups fund. This increase is attributable to 2 particular interest groups. First, the Chamber of Commerce has spent $20,139,723 on political broadcasts in the first 4 weeks of October 2010, according to an analysis of the FEC database. Second, the American Action Network, a right-wing group linked to Karl Rove, has spent $17,629,585 on political broadcasts in the first 4 weeks of October 2010. Including these 2 groups, the total spent on political broadcasts during this time period is $46,669,096. Comparatively, when you exclude these 2 groups, the total is only $8,899,788. Therefore, these 2 interest groups are responsible for 81% of the political broadcasts in the first 4 weeks of October 2010. Separately, the Chamber of Commerce is responsible for 43% of the broadcasts during this period, whereas the American Action Network is responsible for 38% of the broadcasts. Clearly, these are the 2 leading, perhaps even dominant, special-interest groups in the 2010 elections.

Moreover, current campaign finance laws do not require special-interest groups to disclose where contributions come from. Some argue that free speech allows for special interests to spend without limits. Others argue that failing to disclose the sources of contributions, as well as the lack of any limits, threatens an equal and transparent democratic process.

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