Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

For Immediate Release


Mike Stankiewicz,, (202) 588-7779
Don Owens,, (202) 588-7767

Press Release

Citizens United 10 Years Later: 25 Ultrarich People Have Spent $1.4 Billion on Elections

New Public Citizen Research Shows Growing Influence of Billionaires, Increased Corporate Spending.

Over the past 10 years, just 25 ultrarich individuals have poured $1.4 billion into super PACs, corporations have spent at least half a billion dollars to influence elections and donors in a small number of majority-white zip codes exert a massively oversized influence on our political system, a pair of Public Citizen reports released today found.

Since Jan. 21, 2010 – the day the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its infamous ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission – just 25 ultrawealthy donors have been responsible for nearly half (47%) of all contributions by individuals to super PACs, providing $1.4 billion in super PAC contributions out of $2.96 billion in super PAC contributions from individuals, according to a new report “Oligarch Overload.”

Republican casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson and his wife Miriam were by far the largest super PAC donors, contributing $292 million since 2010, or 10% of all super PAC contributions. Hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer ($255 million) and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg ($155 million), were the second-and third-largest donors.

“This surge in megadonors over the past decade means that the 10-year mark of the Citizens United decision is something to bemoan rather than commemorate,” said Alan Zibel, research director of Public Citizen’s Corporate Presidency Project and author of the report. “This is not what democracy looks like. This is the world Citizens United made.”

Campaign donations from the ultrawealthy appear to be monochromatic as well. Political donors in the top 10 majority white zip codes for candidate and super PAC contributions gave a combined $1.85 billion, compared with $179 million for political donors in the top 10 majority-minority zip codes for campaign and super PAC donations.

Another report released today by Public Citizen, “Corporations United,” found that more than 2,200 corporations have reported a total of $313 million in donations to more than 500 political entities for the purpose of influencing elections. Additionally, 30 corporate trade groups, which do not disclose their donors, have spent $226 million, for a corporate spending total of $539 million.

Most (16) of these top corporate donors are private corporations, and half of these (eight) are run by billionaires. Only four of these top corporate donors are publicly traded. With seven corporate donors, the fossil fuel industry is the best represented among the top 20 corporate donors. The top trade group spender by far is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce – a trade group that represents largely multinational megacorporations, which spent $143 million.

However, because of Citizens United, corporations can channel as much money as they want into dark money groups that influence elections, so it’s not possible to know exactly how much corporate election spending is occurring.

 “After Citizens United, corporations appear to have become political piggybanks for the ruling class,” said Rick Claypool, a research director for Public Citizen’s president’s office and author of the report. “It’s through these insidious means that wealthy interests drown out the voices of struggling Americans.”

Read the “Oligarch Overload” report here.

Read “Corporations United” report here.


Public Citizen is a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization that champions the public interest in the halls of power. We defend democracy, resist corporate power and work to ensure that government works for the people – not for big corporations. Founded in 1971, we now have 500,000 members and supporters throughout the country.

'He Isn’t Negotiating, He Is Killing the Bill': Ilhan Omar Slams Joe Manchin

"Thanks to the butchering of Manchin, Sinema, and the greed of their corporate lobbyists," said one critic, the Democrat's Build Back Better plan has been slashed down to just $1.9 trillion in spending.

Jon Queally ·

'Stop Line 5': Valve Turner Forces Shutdown of Enbridge Oil Pipeline in Michigan

"We are here to protect the water, land, and air that support all life, including our own. Line 5 poses an immediate threat to our lives and these actions are taken out of necessity and in self-defense."

Jessica Corbett ·

'Delay Is the New Denial': Study Confirms 99.9% of Scientists Agree on Climate

"It's pretty much case closed for any meaningful public conversation about the reality of human-caused climate change."

Brett Wilkins ·

Exposed: How Pfizer Exploits Secretive Vaccine Contracts to Strong-Arm Governments

"Pfizer has used its monopoly on a lifesaving vaccine to extract concessions from desperate governments," said the report's author, urging action from the Biden administration.

Jessica Corbett ·

'A Toxic Presence in the Party': Ocasio-Cortez Joins Calls for Jay Jacobs to Resign

"India Walton is the Democratic nominee for mayor of Buffalo. No amount of racist misogyny from the old boys' club is going to change that."

Brett Wilkins ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.

Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo