Chicago — Today Illinois PIRG Education Fund and Demos released a new analysis of the funding sources for the campaign finance behemoths, Super PACs. The findings confirmed what many have predicted in the wake of the Supreme Court's damaging Citizens United decision: since their inception in 2010, Super PACs have been primarily funded by a small segment of very wealthy individuals and business interests, with a small but significant amount of funds coming from secret sources.
"Super PACs represent much of what is wrong with American democracy rolled neatly into one package," said Marites Velasquez, Field Organizer with Illinois PIRG. "They are tools that powerful special interests can use to work their will by drowning out the voices of ordinary Americans in a sea of sometimes secret cash."
"Super PACs are like kryptonite for our democracy," added Demos Democracy Counsel Adam Lioz. "They undermine core principles of political equality in favor of a bully-based system where the strength of a citizen's voice depends upon the size of her wallet."
Some of the most striking findings in the report are:
17% percent of all Super PAC money in 2010 and 2011 came from for-profit business treasuries.
6.4% of the itemized funds raised by Super PACs since 2010 was "secret money," not feasibly traceable to its original source. A month-to-month analysis of spending in 2010 and 2011 suggests that the months leading up to the 2012 election will see an unprecedented surge in secret money.
Of all itemized contributions from individuals to Super PACs, 93% came in contributions of at least $10,000. Only 726 individuals, or 23 out of every 10 million people in the U.S., made a contribution this large to a Super PAC. More than half of itemized Super PAC money came from just 37 people giving at least $500,000.
Illinois PIRG Education Fund offers a recommendation for how the Illinois State Legislature can push back on the influence of Super PACspass a bill to protect shareholders. Specifically, the bill should:
For corporations incorporated in Illinois, require shareholders to authorize, on an annual basis, a political activities budget of up to $X (to be set by corporation). Corporation must achieve a majority of votes representing all outstanding shares.
For corporations incorporated in another state but registered to do business in Illinois, require shareholders residing in Illinois to authorize spending related to Illinois' elections.
Require that fiduciaries voting on behalf of their investors disclose that vote to investors.
Require that the board of directors must vote to authorize each expenditure over $50,000 within the overall budget approved by shareholders.
Require individual board member votes and the details of such approved expenditure be disclosed online within 48 hours and to shareholders and the SEC on a quarterly basis.