What Citizens United Hath Wrought

Chris Cillizza looks at the effect that the Citizens United ruling has had on outside spending — money spent by third-party political organizations rather than by the parties or the candidates — during the last three election cycles. It’s pretty staggering. This chart speaks volumes:


Citizens United came down in January, 2010. Look at the leap from the 2006 midterm election to the 2010 midterm election (midterms always have lower spending than presidential elections). Now here’s the other fact. Most of that independent money goes to Republicans:


That was a $350 million difference in 2012. Obama won reelection despite that huge difference, but most of the independent money was spent in downticket races, not the presidential race, and Obama, as the incumbent, raised a lot more direct money to make up for that. More instructive is the difference in 2010, when Republicans had far more independent money spent on their behalf and won landslides in state and federal legislative seats. Independent money has a much bigger effect downticket than it does at the top.

About Ed Brayton

After spending several years touring the country as a stand up comedian, Ed Brayton tired of explaining his jokes to small groups of dazed illiterates and turned to writing as the most common outlet for the voices in his head. He has appeared on the Rachel Maddow Show and the Thom Hartmann Show, and is almost certain that he is the only person ever to make fun of Chuck Norris on C-SPAN.

  • Donnie

    So, Citizen United was Scalia’s partisan effort to ensure that Republicans would outspend Democrats in future elections? Up until 2010, Democrats consistently out-raised / out-spent the Republicans at least since 2000 (probably back since 1996).

  • grizzle

    It’s no surprise that State Legislatures are where most of the bills that actually affect people are being introduced and passed into laws.

  • pocketnerd

    This might help explain why teabaggers always think of themselves as a majority view, when in fact they’re a fringey minority: Their massive funding advantage means a bigger stage and a louder microphone, leading to an illusion of consensus. (The “elephant echo chamber” is probably part of it as well.)

  • cry4turtles

    That rollar coaster ride makes me sick.

  • freehand

    Well, the Democrats may have the highest number of people supporting them, but the GOP clearly has the biggest people on their side (“Corporations are people too, my friends.”)

  • Scr… Archivist

    grizzle @2,

    And that’s all the more reason for them to maintain a do-nothing Congress.

    Also, winning state legislatures in 2010 was vital to gerrymander Congressional districts to the Republicans’ advantage.