The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision — striking down bans on independent spending by unions, corporations, and individuals — continues to ripple through American politics, especially at the state level.
Prior to the ruling, 24 states banned independent expenditures by unions, corporations, or both. Since the ruling, all 24 have dropped their bans following court challenges, rulings by attorneys general, or through legislation.
That means it’s even harder to find publicly accessible data on independent political spending in state races.
Campaign cash for federal races — the presidency and members of Congress — has been tracked for a decade by the Center for Responsive Politics (recently named to the inaugural list of institutions comprising a new journalism ecosystem). But the interpretation has often been done by people like me — using the CRP’s opensecrets.org site. Similarly, I’ve used reports at followthemoney.org as background for commentary on state elections and referenda.
But that was before Citizens United. Now, at either the state or federal level, can we calculate which is larger: The total of publicly accessible, legally required reports of contributions to candidates — or the the total of anonymous, unreported, publicly unaccessible spending legitimized by the Supreme Court?