MADISON (WXOW) -- The Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group (WISPIRG) wants the people of Wisconsin to weigh in on "Citizens United" and election spending limits.
WISPIRG and Counsel for Demos released a report Tuesday, showing the 2012 elections were the most expensive ever, with massive donations playing a bigger role.
Now, WISPIRG, along with nine other reform groups, announced they will launch a coalition calling for the legislature to let the people of Wisconsin weigh in with an advisory referendum on "Citizens United", the Supreme Court ruling that lifted campaign finance regulations.
The new report, Billion Dollar Democracy, showed that 32 billionaires and corporations gave an average of $9.9 million apiece to Super PACs, which matched every single dollar that small donors gave to the Romney and Obama campaigns. The report says those small donations, which amounted to more than $313 million, came from more than 3.7 million individuals.
WISPIRG's and People for the American Way's supplemental analysis by of spending by outside groups (non-campaign or party affiliated organizations) including PACs, Super PACs, corporations, unions, and wealthy individuals in Wisconsin's congressional races found that more than 99% of the money came from groups like Majority PAC and American Crossroads, who are registered outside of Wisconsin.
"Americans who are wondering why it seems tougher to get ahead or even get a fair shake in today's economy should look to big money politics for answers," Adam Lioz, with Counsel for Demos and the report's co-author, said. "When a tiny group of wealthy donors fuels political campaigns, they get to set the agenda in Washington, and the rest of us are left to argue over that agenda."
"The first post-'Citizens United' presidential election confirmed our fears that the new unlimited-money regime allows well-heeled special interests and secret spenders to drown out the voices of ordinary citizens," Joe Rasmussen, Program Associate for WISPIRG, said.
The report provides a detailed analysis of all federal election spending and fundraising by campaigns and Super PACs.
"Allowing this special-interest money to fund attack ads on candidates distorts our democracy," Rasmussen said. "Corporations are attempting to ensure that our elected officials put industry interests above the common good."
Billion Dollar Democracy also found that groups that do not disclose the source of their funds paid for nearly half of all television advertising in the presidential race.
"These dark-money groups hide key information from voters about where they get their money," Rasmussen said. "Furthermore, because there's no one to hold responsible for the content of their advertising, studies show that ads funded by dark money are far more likely to be misleading or just downright lying."
The report calls for a constitutional amendment to overturn "Citizens United" and restore the ability to set reasonable limits on campaign spending.
"What to do about the flood of special interest money drowning out regular people's voices and dominating our government is one of the most pressing issues facing the country today," Rasmussen said. "With 11 other states on the record in support of a constitutional amendment, the people of Wisconsin deserve an opportunity to weigh in through a direct vote."
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