The 2010 election cycle was the first since the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling, which opened the floodgates for corporate interests to influence campaigns through huge, untraceable donations. Citizens United overwhelmingly helped the GOP last year, and no candidate benefited more than Illinois' Republican Senator Mark Kirk. Political organizations set up to accept unlimited sums of money or groups that do not disclose their donors spent more than $8.7 million, according to a Public Citizen report (PDF), supporting Kirk, as compared to about $787,000 these outside groups spent supporting Democratic candidate Alexi Giannoulias.
A new study
by the Center for Responsive Politics shows again how conservatives are using Citizens United to dominate the political spending on the federal level. Their analysis found that between 2009 and 2010,
the top conservative groups spent more than $97.6 million on campaigns, accounting for about one-third
of all non-party spending. By contrast, labor unions contributed $46.7 million to political campaigns, or 16
percent of non-party committee spending, almost all of which went to
Democrats, over the same time period.
The disparity promises to get worse. Amidst the union-busting attempts by Republican governors in the Midwest comes a report that American Crossroads, a 527 group founded last year by Karl Rove, plans to spend $120 million in 2012.