Sunlight Foundation

Follow the Unlimited Money

Showing data from the 2011-2012 election cycle. See the 2013-2014 home page.

Overview: 2011-12 outside spending

For a breakdown by party affiliation, including super PAC fundraising and cash on hand, see totals by party affiliation. For charts of outside spending by party and office, see the spending breakdown page.

Total independent expenditures made, 2012 cycle: $1.3 billion
Total electioneering communications made, 2012 cycle: $15.0 million

All Independent Expenditures

The numbers below represent totals for the entire two-year cycle but the chart breaks down spending for the current year, when committees were most active.

Total supporting a candidate: $244.5 million
Total opposing a candidate:
$1.0 billion

This includes independent expenditures by Super PAC's, party committees, non-party committees, and non-profit groups that haven't registered as political groups with the Federal Election Commission but file reports on their spending.

Super PACs

Number of Super PACs: 1272
Total independent expenditures made by Super PACs 2012 cycle: $620.6 million
Total itemized contributions to Super PACs, 2012 cycle: $1.1 billion
Total contributions to Super PACs from organizations (not individuals): $236.8 million

For more details, see the Super PAC page, or the organizational donors to Super PAC page. Contribution totals listed above and on the chart do not include unitemized contributions to Super PACs.


Total independent expenditures: $305.3 million

Noncommittees are groups--typically 501(c)4s--that haven't registered as political groups with the FEC, but do report their independent expenditures. Among the biggest of these groups are Crossroads GPS, Americans For Prosperity and the US Chamber of Commerce.Typically they do not report donors. For more details, see the noncommittees page. Note that some groups also file separate reports under different FEC ID's; some entities also operate Super PACs or committees that make electioneering communications.

Party Committees

Independent expenditures by party committees: $254.0 million

Under FEC rules party committees can make independent expenditures, provided that they don't coordinate with a candidate. Party committees spending independently include the Republican National Committee and National Republican Congressional Committee. These are subject to contribution caps--unlike Super PACs they cannot take million dollar contributions from individuals. Party committees largely stay out of the fray during the primary elections, but play a larger role in the general election. These committees disclose their donors on FEC filings, though they are not displayed on Follow The Unlimited Money, which only lists Super PAC donors.

Nonparty Committees

Independent expenditures by nonparty committees: $86.8 million

Nonparty committees are political action committees which are subject to traditional contribution limits and are neither official party committees or candidate committees. More prominent nonparty committees making independent expenditures include Republican Majority Campaign, Seiu Cope (Service Employees International Union Committee on Political Education), National Association of Realtors Political Action Committee . These committees disclose their donors on FEC filings, though they are not displayed on Follow The Unlimited Money, which only lists Super PAC donors.