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Danny Katz,
CoPIRG

Supreme Court decision added $24.8 million in additional campaign spending by mega-donors

Large donors dominate Colorado Senate race as well
For Immediate Release

The Supreme Court’s most recent decision allowing more big money into our elections, April’s McCutcheon case, allowed $24.8 million in additional campaign spending by megadonors, according to new information released today by CoPIRG. 

By analyzing donor data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, CoPIRG found that 510 large donors surpassed the $123,200 aggregate limit on giving to all federal candidates and committees struck down by the Court in McCutcheon. Their spending above the limit totaled $24.8 million.  An earlier projection by CoPIRG and Demos found that the decision will ultimately cause $1 billion in increased spending through the 2020 elections.

“The Court’s wrong-headed decision in McCutcheon specifically empowered a tiny group of megadonors – those with the ability to spend more than a hundred thousand dollars on an election,” said Jessica Johnnes, Campaign Organizer with CoPIRG.  “We should be working to lift up the voices of ordinary Americans, not making it even easier for large donors to drown out everybody else.”

In Colorado’s recent Senate race, megadonors giving $1,000 or more were responsible for 49% of all campaign contributions, while only 20% of all contributions came from those giving $200 or less.

“It’s hard for most people to afford to give even a hundred dollars to a candidate they support, much less a thousand,” said Johnnes. “But donors who can, and do, give in large denominations played a decisive role in our Senate race.”

In addition to amending the Constitution to overturn Citizens United and McCutcheon, and allow for limits on the influence of megadonors and Super PACs, more must be done to empower ordinary citizens to play a more active role in our elections.  Fortunately, there are successful, proven models to support small donors so that their voices play a more central role in our democracy, such as providing tax credits and public matching funds for small donations.

For example, in New York City’s 2013 city council campaigns, small donors were responsible for 61% of participating candidates’ contributions, when funds from a matching program are included. In 2009, all but two of the 51 winning candidates participated in the small donor program, showing that candidates are able to raise the money they need to win without looking for large-dollar contributions.  The federal Government By the People Act would institute a similar system for Congressional elections.

“I serve in Congress to represent my constituents who want their voices heard and their votes counted,” said Rep. Ed Perlmutter. “The Government By the People Act is important because it allows all elected representatives to spend more time crafting bipartisan solutions to the issues important to our constituents rather than having to spend so much time fundraising.”

“In our democracy, elections are supposed to be about the views and priorities of each and every American”, said Rep. Degette, ”but our campaign finance system is badly distorting which opinions get heard. The Government by the People Act would help restore a basic level of fairness and give everyone a say over the public officials who serve.”

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