Election Analysis: 2010 Midterm Bankrolled By Less Than 1% Of Americans Representing K Street, Wall Street Special Interests
Wednesday, January 26th, 2011
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Americans for Campaign Reform, 12/9/10
Contact: Nick Mitchell
New study finds that a quarter of 1% of the population made itemized contributions in 2010; donors are primarily high-income men concentrated in five metropolitan areas.
CONCORD, NH – Americans for Campaign Reform (ACR) today released a study of campaign contributions in the 2010 midterm election showing an extreme concentration of giving at the top, according to campaign finance disclosures newly released by the FEC. The data show that less than one out of 400 Americans, most of them affiliated with major corporate interests, made itemized donations ($200 or more) to federal candidates or PACs in 2010, a drop of 50% since 2008 and the lowest level in at least ten years in spite of record spending. The research does not cover the estimated $300 million in independent expenditure campaigns financed by unlimited and often undisclosed private donations.
Topping the campaign finance charts were individuals employed by the finance, real estate, and insurance sector at $214 million and lawyers and lobbyists at $124 million. Nearly three out of four contributors were male, with a high level of geographic concentration in major metropolitan areas and top donor zip codes showing high median incomes and a lack of racial diversity.
Meanwhile, the percentage of small donors giving less than $200 to political campaigns plummeted from a high of nearly 4% in 2008 to less than 1% in 2010. Small donor giving, which rarely tops 10% of the money raised by congressional candidates, was touted as a major democratizing element in 2008; the percentage of money raised in small amounts by President Obama was roughy 28%.
“In the aftermath of a Supreme Court decision undercutting decades’ worth of campaign finance regulation, we’re seeing more and more money from fewer and fewer people flooding campaigns,” said Daniel Weeks, president of Americans for Campaign Reform. “Anyone who believes that privately financed elections are about representation and free speech, not access and influence, simply has not looked at the data.”
Key findings include:
- Fewer than one out of 2,000 citizens (0.04%) contributed amounts of $2,300 or more in 2010, accounting for two-thirds of total funds or nearly $1 billion.
- The number of male donors exceeded female donors by a factor of 2.5 to 1.
- The top 5 metro areas by political contributions – DC, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Boston – gave nearly $700 million in 2010, more than the bottom 43 states combined.
- The top contributing industries – finance and real estate, lawyers and lobbyists, healthcare, communications, and misc. business – provided a combined $627 million in campaign money in 2010, compared with 13% from ideological/single issue groups and 4.6% from labor.
Weeks concluded, “In an age of rising inequality, where U.S. Senators enjoy an average net worth
of $6.6 million or 37 times the national rate, it is little surprise that the political donor class scarcely represents the American people. With millions out of work and wages low, who but the top one percent can afford to make multiple $2,400 donations to political campaigns – and enjoy the political influence that results? Wholesale reform of our nation’s campaign finance system will be required to combat corruption and restore public faith in Washington.”
ACR is a national bipartisan organization chaired by former U.S. Senators Bill Bradley (D-NJ), Bob Kerrey (D-NE), Warren Rudman (R-NH), and Alan Simpson (R-WY) that advocates for a broad-based system of small donor public funding of federal elections. Data for the study were from the Center for Responsive Politics.