A handful of very rich men and women are shaping this year's election by giving large sums of money to powerful super PACs. So who are they?
Reports indicate that this may be the most expensive election in the history of the United States. That's in part because donors can now contribute unlimited amounts of money to super PACs, organizations that are technically independent of a candidate’s campaign but may still influence an election through ads or other means. (Individuals can only donate $2,500 directly to a political campaign, but both individuals and corporations can give unlimited sums to super PACs.) Most super PACs "support" their candidate by tearing down his or her opponent, and as a result the most effective ads rarely focus on an accurate portrayal of the facts.
What is troubling is not only that these attack ads rarely concern themselves with the truth, or that they unduly affect elections—though those are both problems—but that most super PAC activity is funded by a tiny minority of wealthy individuals and corporations. That means that Corporate America and a few rich donors have a disproportionate influence over political outcomes. Hurrah for democracy, right?
Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig recently spoke about this issue at the GOOD offices in Los Angeles. To help spread awareness that just a few people are funding the most powerful super PACs on both sides of the race, Lessig and his group Rootstrikers have just released the infographic above showing who's giving money and exactly how much.
The system is clearly broken. If you want to help fix it, consider signing Lawrence Lessig’s anti-corruption pledge today and encouraging your representative to do the same.