A report displaying the amount of money spent so far on elections by outside groups was released Thursday by two liberal organizations, finding that such spending will have a major impact on the upcoming elections.
The report, produced by Demos and Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group, found that $167.5 million in outside spending was reported to the Federal Election Commission, of which $12.7 million have an undisclosed source. It acknowledged various “gaps” in reporting to the FEC and concluded the $167.5 million is only “part of the picture.”
It also evaluated the funding from super PACs, groups made possible by a recent Supreme Court decision that allow unlimited spending by individuals and institutions like corporations and unions.
The report found super PACs have raised $230 million so far from individuals, 57 percent of which came from 47 donors who donated over $1 million. Ninety-four percent of the $230 million came from 1,000 donors who gave at least $10,000.
“Outside spending is not inherently bad,” the report said. “But, our research shows that outside spending groups that aggregate unlimited contributions are distorting our democracy, functioning as megaphones for (sometimes unseen) millionaires and moguls.”
Calls and emails to the conservative super PACs Americans for Prosperity and Crossroads GPS, as well as liberal super PAC Priorities USA Action, were not returned by press time.
In an interview with The Badger Herald, Tea Party Patriots Wisconsin coordinator Michael Hintze defended unlimited amounts of spending by individuals in elections, although he said he thinks the voters deserve full disclosure of those funds.
He also rejected the notion outside spending influences most voters in the country.
“That doesn’t give the voters enough credit for being able to figure out what’s in their best interest and what politicians are best for their future. I think that’s a bad prescription for democracy,” Hintze said.
Common Cause Wisconsin Executive Director Jay Heck disagreed with Hintze since he said most studies show when groups “blanket” TV and radio with advertisements, voters begin to believe those ads regardless of whether they are true or not.
Heck gave the example of Gov. Scott Walker’s recall and the debate on how many jobs had been created by his administration. Walker’s administration had released a separate jobs report that had not yet been verified by the Bureau of Labor Statistics; this report showed job growth, unlike the reports that were being cited in advertisements against him.
According to Heck, these advertisements were played often and were followed by more positive poll numbers for Walker’s job-creating abilities. Heck said this had a large impact on his victory in the recall election, despite the debate over job creation being separated by two differing methods on recording jobs created.
“If you have enough money, you can play [advertisements] over and over again and you see movements in the polls. That’s why they do it,” Heck said. “[Elections] ought to be a battle of ideas rather than who can raise the most money. It’s not an auction. It’s an election.”