Reports: "Big, Secret Money" pervades Utah politics

Demos and U.S. PIRG call this "The Millionaires Club," and cite it as proof of the clout created for the wealthiest Americans by the Citizens United decision. Courtesy of Demos.

SALT LAKE CITY – Groups from outside the state poured more than $4.8 million into Utah’s congressional races in the 2012 election.

Government watchdog groups have tallied political donation details for Utah and 19 other states and released them this week, to coincide with the third anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ‘Citizens United’ decision, coming up Saturday. It’s the ruling that ended campaign-spending limits for corporations and special interest groups.

Adam Lioz, staff counsel for the group Demos, says big businesses and their wealthy owners dominate politics more than ever.

“The top 32 super-PAC donors, contributing an average of nearly $10 million each, matched all of the money that both President Obama and Mitt Romney raised from small donors, combined. And that’s $313 million, from at least 3.7 million people giving less than $200 apiece.”

The Demos <a href=”” target=”parent”>report</a> says the campaign finance system favors incumbents over challengers and grassroots candidates, and makes it impossible to track some donations, which don’t have to be reported if they fall outside a certain time period before an election.

In Utah’s House and Senate contests, groups that don’t have to disclose their donors accounted for half of all the outside spending.

Blair Bowie, a democracy advocate with the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), says in many races, PIRG <a href=”” target=”parent”>found</a> that was the norm.

“Of the outside spending reported to the FEC, 31 percent was secret spending, coming from organizations that are not required to disclose the original sources of their funds. Citizens didn’t know who was behind almost 60 percent of all presidential TV ads paid for by outside groups.”

This weekend, citizens’ groups around the country, including in Salt Lake City, are planning rallies and other events to voice their disapproval of the Citizens United decision.

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