“Unions Outspending Corporations on Campaign Ads”

The Washington Post reports on the post-Citizens United spending:

So far this year, $24.7 million in independent spending has been reported to the Federal Election Commission, campaign filings show. Unions have spent $9.7 million (or 39 percent of the total), compared with $6.4 million (26 percent) spent by individuals and $3.4 million spent by corporations.

Not all spending on political ads is included in the totals. Issue ads, which mention candidates and their positions but offer no candidate endorsement, do not have to be reported to the government unless they run directly before an election.

These results are of course limited in scope; it’s hard to tell what will happen over the coming decades (or even, as the article points out, in the general election campaign as opposed to the primaries). But they are consistent with the data I reported in February about the California experience (even before Citizens United, California didn’t limit independent spending by corporations and unions):

[T]he California Fair Political Practices Commission has published a report that is quite critical of independent expenditures, but which also reports a good deal of data about them. To be sure, California is doubtless different from other states in important ways, and federal elections may be different still. Nonetheless, I think the reports might be a helpful source of data (and I’d welcome pointers to other such reports from other states).

The report goes into particular detail on the top 10 funders of the top 25 independent spending committees (who account for $37M of the $88M independently spent to support or oppose candidates for office from 2001 through 2006)…. [T]here’s lots of union money ($17.2M), tribal money ($9.6M), individual money from two spenders who (see below) were a business partner of the candidate and the partner’s daughter ($8.5M), and money from consumer lawyers, which might have come from professional corporations (hard to tell) ($1.7M). But ordinary business corporations aren’t by themselves providing enough funding to register on the top 10.

I also looked at just the top 10 independent spending committees, and drawing inferences about the funding. This money broke down into

  • Corporate: $6.85M
  • Union: $16.6M
  • Individual: $8M
  • Indian tribe: $10.75M