New Report: Outside Spending, Dark Money Playing Record Role in Battle for Senate Majority

For Immediate Release

New Report: Outside Spending, Dark Money Playing Record Role in Battle for Senate Majority

NEW YORK - Outside spending is playing an unprecedentedly large role in the nine races most likely to determine which party controls the U.S. Senate, according to a new report released today by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. A record amount of this money comes from “dark money” groups that conceal their donors and single-candidate groups, two new trends made possible by weak regulation and decisions like Citizens United.

The report, Election Spending 2014: 9 Toss-Up Senate Races, found several important new trends pointing to the evolving and expanding role of big money in American elections, including:

  • New highs in total outside spending. It is highly likely that all races but Louisiana’s will match or exceed the previous record high for spending in a Senate race. Less than half the expenditures so far have come from candidates themselves.
     
  • A precipitous rise in dark money groups, which have accounted for 56 percent of all nonparty outside spending. Pro-Republican outside spending is far more likely to be undisclosed (80 percent) than pro-Democrat spending (32 percent).
     
  • A similar rise in single-candidate groups, which were active in all nine states and accounted for high percentages of spending in Alaska, Kentucky, and Georgia — again, this spending favors Republican candidates by more than 2-to-1.
     
  • The report also provides policy recommendations to close loopholes that allow the rising power of dark money spending and outside groups, including passing the DISCLOSE Act of 2014, new IRS and SEC rules on political activity by nonprofits and corporations, and more.

 “Outside spending of all kinds is at record levels ahead of the 2014 election,” said report author Ian Vandewalker. “Most glaringly, weak campaign finance laws and Supreme Court decisions like Citizens United have made possible new means of pumping money into elections while avoiding regulation or scrutiny. These tactics are gradually becoming the national norm, and give wealthy spenders more power than ever to buy influence over our political process and elected officials.”

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The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law is a non-partisan public policy and law institute that focuses on fundamental issues of democracy and justice. Our work ranges from voting rights to redistricting reform, from access to the courts to presidential power in the fight against terrorism.

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