Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

For Immediate Release


Naren Daniel at (917) 673-0333 or

Press Release

New Report: Outside Spending, Dark Money from Wealthy Few Booming Post-'Citizens United'


Outside spending in competitive Senate races has exploded since 2010’s Citizens United decision, and a new analysis from the Brennan Center reveals three key trends: a major increase in the influence of a few wealthy donors, the proliferation of dark money spending that conceals the identity of donors, and significant growth in single-candidate super PACs that circumvent contribution limits. Among the report’s findings:

  • Since 2010, outside spending on Senate elections has more than doubled: from $220 million that year to $486 million in 2014.
  • Toss-up races are a money magnet: 90 percent of Senate spending was concentrated in the 11 races polls projected as most competitive.  In those races, outside groups accounted for more spending (47 percent) than the candidates themselves (41 percent).
  • Super PACs are funded by an exclusive few: Of the 10 highest spending super PACs in competitive Senate races, all but two received less than 1 percent of their contributions from small donors. Across all federal elections since Citizens United, just 195 individuals and their spouses have given almost 60 percent of the $1 billion spent by super PACs.
  • Dark money has more than doubled since 2010: from $105 million to $226 million in 2014. $485 million of the $1 billion outside spenders plowed into the last three Senate cycles, or nearly half, was dark money. The winners in the 11 most competitive 2014 Senate races had more than $131 million in dark money supporting them —71 percent of total nonparty outside spending in their favor.
  • Single-candidate groups are on the rise: 2014’s 11 competitive Senate races saw 16 candidate-specific groups spend more than $1 million each, more than double the number in 2012. These groups depend heavily on donors who have given the up to legal limit directly to their chosen candidate.

“The post-Citizens United numbers paint a daunting picture: Outside money driven mostly by a few wealthy donors now surpasses even spending by candidates themselves in tight races, giving those donors a level of election influence unprecedented in modern American history,” said report author Ian Vandewalker. “At the same time, the rise of dark-money and single-candidate groups threaten two longstanding cornerstones of money in politics regulation, transparency and contribution limits. Congress, the president, and federal agencies all should seize opportunities to make reforms improving transparency and boosting the power of small donors.”

Click here to read the full report, Election Spending 2014: Outside Spending in Senate Races Since Citizens United.

The report will be highlighted at an event today at New York University's Washington offices, hosted by eight national pro-democracy organizations coming together to release independent research on the role of money in post-Citizens United elections. Click here for information and to watch a livestream of the event.


The Brennan Center for Justice is a nonpartisan law and policy institute. We strive to uphold the values of democracy. We stand for equal justice and the rule of law. We work to craft and advance reforms that will make American democracy work, for all.

House Democrats Request 'Damage Assessment' Following Recovery of Classified Docs

"Former President Trump's conduct has potentially put our national security at grave risk," Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Adam Schiff wrote to Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines.

Kenny Stancil ·

Violent Threats Against FBI Soar as Trump Lies About Mar-a-Lago Search

Menacing messages posted online "include a threat to place a so-called dirty bomb in front of FBI Headquarters" and "general calls for 'civil war' and 'armed rebellion,'" officials warned.

Kenny Stancil ·

'Biggest Win for Tax Fairness' in Decades: Progressives Cheer Reforms in IRA, Demand More

"While this bill establishes desperately needed changes to our tax laws and IRS funding, it is still a far cry from the systemic changes that we need in our society to rectify the hold the rich still have on every level of our economy."

Kenny Stancil ·

'Care Can't Wait': IRA a Good Start, Progressives Say, But More Is Needed

"Americans deserve a full loaf of bread," said health justice advocate Ady Barkan.

Kenny Stancil ·

'I'm Back': Fetterman Returns to Campaign Trail Following May Stroke

"I'm not only grateful to be alive, but also for the campaign we're building together," said the Democratic nominee for Pennsylvania's open U.S. Senate seat.

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo