Here at OpenSecrets.org, we provide breakdowns of data reported by outside spending groups to the Federal Election Commission (see menu at left). We have a separate section devoted to dark money groups – politically active nonprofits that aren't required to publicly disclose their donors, unlike virtually every other organization spending money to affect the outcomes of federal elections. Through a dedicated project, we have dug up data on the donors of more than $1 billion – and counting – since 2008.
The outside spending landscape is in constant flux. In 2002, Congress passed the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act -- commonly referred to as McCain-Feingold -- which set limits on "soft money" contributions and banned special interest groups from making issue ads. But in the years that followed, federal court decisions, including Wisconsin Right to Life v. FEC, Citizens United v. FEC and Speechnow.org v. FEC have dismantled or eroded parts of the law, giving rise to super PACs and "dark money" organizations -- politically active nonprofits that do not have to disclose their donors. These organizations alone spent hundreds of millions of dollars in recent elections and almost never revealed where their money was coming from.
The two sections below offer different views of the available data on outside spending. The Federal Election Spending section provides an overview of all data that is reported to either the FEC or, to a lesser extent, the IRS. It gives cycle-by-cycle breakdowns of all reported spending and contributions that can be viewed in the context of specific races, types of groups, candidates targeted and other factors. The Political Nonprofits page is, in many ways, a subsection of the Federal Election Spending section, but it is supplemented with data that the Center for Responsive Politics has been compiling since February 2012 from annual tax returns filed with the IRS. The IRS itself does not produce this data, so this section provides a unique comparison of the FEC data and the spending the groups report to the IRS. The additional data includes expenditures reported to the IRS, grants between "dark money" groups and in-depth reporting about the increasing role of dark money in federal elections.
Outside Spending by Cycle Thru October 1st of election year, Excluding Party Committees
Political Nonprofits Spending, by Type
Totals only include political spending from nonprofit treasuries that is reported to the FEC
Donor Disclosure Analysis of Outside Spending 1990 - 2020
September 30, 2020 | Republican super PACs are attacking Democratic Senate challengers over their support for a public health insurance option using talking points from a well-funded healthcare industry group.
September 25, 2020 | While players protest, NFL team owners are spending their fortunes on political donations totaling $4.2 million so far this election cycle.
September 23, 2020 | Super PACs, political parties and “dark money” nonprofits, among others, have injected over $1 billion into federal races, a record at this point in an election cycle.