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January 21, 2011
9:28 AM

CONTACT: Sunlight Foundation

Gabriela Schneider 202-742-1520

Citizens United Anniversary: Its Effects on Campaign Spending and Lobbying

WASHINGTON - January 21 - Today, January 21, marks one year since the Supreme Court issued its decision on Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The ruling paved the way for outside groups to partake in unregulated and often-anonymous campaign ad spending, and unleashed an unprecedented wave of outside spending in the mid-term elections. In response, the Sunlight Foundation created the “Follow the Unlimited Money” tool to shine a light on the spending information that was reported to the FEC.

Here are highlights reported by “Follow the Unlimited Money” during the 2010 mid-term elections:

Total outside spending …………………………………………………. $454,697,852.52

Money spent opposing candidates ……………………...……………. $300,750,179.26

Money spent supporting candidates ……………………...….………. $77,772,653.97

Total supporting Republicans and opposing Democrats …………… $197,398,622.13

Total supporting Democrats and opposing Republicans …………… $181,124,211.10

The Colorado Senate race was the most expensive in the midterm elections with $32.78 million spent.

The Michigan 7th district was the most expensive House race with $8.55 million spent.

American Crossroads led committees intending to accept unlimited contribution amounts, with $21.55 million in outside spending, nearly four times the amount from the next highest spender.

The Democratic Congressional and Senate campaign committees (DCCC and DSCC) spent a combined total of $104.46 million on independent expenditures compared to $72.14 million spent by their Republican counterparts.

In the wake of this decision, creative new techniques in the way election money is spent — and hidden — by outside groups have proliferated. Meanwhile, the legislative effort to respond to the Citizens United decision failed last year in the Senate. Similarly, on the regulatory front, the FEC marked this one-year anniversary of the Citizens United case by failing to do anything to provide better disclosure of runaway secret campaign spending brought about by the Supreme Court's decision.

All the while, lobbying continues as it always has, albeit with less hindrances. Even worse, after Citizens United, lobbyists can threaten that clients will spend millions on ads if senators or representatives do not do what the lobbyist wants.

If Congress, the Supreme Court and the FEC are going to make it difficult to follow the money, then it’s imperative for watchdogs and journalists to follow the action. When it comes to knowing who's wielding influence in Washington, that action is lobbying. To combat such unregulated and often anonymous spending, the Sunlight Foundation just launched a new initiative to create meaningful lobbying disclosure reform. As part of that effort, Sunlight drafted the “Real-Time Online Lobbying Transparency Act” to create a new system of disclosure of all lobbying activities, and posted it online for crowdsourced public review. Sunlight believes lobbyists should have to disclose their activities and contacts on the web–and without a lag time. Sunlight is calling to stop the practice of “stealth lobbying” by those who skirt around the 20 percent time exemption. In effect, all those who work as "senior advisors" (like former Senator Daschle) should be considered lobbyists so they have to register and disclose their work.

Campaign finance and lobbying reform experts from the Sunlight Foundation are available for interviews should you be writing about the anniversary of Citizens United and its ramifications in U.S. politics.

Available from Sunlight are:

Ellen Miller – co-founder and executive director
John Wonderlich – policy director
Lisa Rosenberg – government affairs consultant

I’d be happy to put you in touch with these Sunlight experts.

For more details on Sunlight’s lobbying reform initiative, visit our press room at

The Sunlight Foundation was co-founded in 2006 by Washington, DC businessman and lawyer Michael Klein and longtime Washington public interest advocate Ellen Miller with the non-partisan mission of using the revolutionary power of the Internet to make information about Congress and the federal government more meaningfully accessible to citizens.


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