The key takeaways from this post are:
- Business interests are spending billions of dollars each election cycle on political campaigns.
- Supreme Court decisions have allowed unlimited campaign spending by wealthy special interests who are increasingly hiding their identities from voters.
- Business interests are also spending billions of dollars on lobbying each year.
- This huge spending by business interests is affecting public policy, allowing extreme capitalism where returns to shareholders outweigh all other interests.
(Note: If you find my posts too much to read on occasion, please just read the bolded portions. They present the key points I’m making.)
The 2022 midterm (i.e., non-presidential) federal elections were the most expensive ever by a wide margin. Candidates and political action committees (PACs) spent a total of $9 billion, up from $7 billion in 2018 and $5 billion in 2014 (both figures are adjusted for inflation). Identifiable business interests contributed $3.5 billion to federal campaigns, a record amount. They spent 14 times as much as organized labor. 
In the 2022 election cycle, business interests gave $66 million to members of Congress who voted NOT to accept the results of the 2020 presidential election, the so-called Sedition Caucus. Numerous corporations pledged to stop or re-evaluate supporting these members of Congress after the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol. A significant number of these corporations have resumed making corporate PAC contributions to members of the Sedition Caucus, including contributions from AT&T, Boeing, Cigna, Comcast, General Motors, Home Depot, Lockheed Martin, Marathon Petroleum, Pfizer, Raytheon, UPS, UnitedHealth, Verizon, and Walmart. 
A growing number of members of Congress (73) refused corporate PAC money for the 2022 elections; 59 did for the 2020 elections. A much smaller number (7 members of the House and 6 Senators) refused money from all business PACs, including PACs of businesses not organized as corporations (e.g., many law, lobbying, and accounting firms) and of industry associations (e.g., the National Association of Realtors). Note that neither of these categorical refusals excludes the receipt of donations from corporate executives.
Election spending by outside groups has been growing since the 2010 Supreme Court Citizens United decision (as well as other related decisions). The Supreme Court’s decisions allow unlimited outside spending (i.e., spending that is [supposedly] independent of candidates’ campaigns and the political parties). Since 2010, there’s been over $9 billion in outside spending. A growing portion of this money is coming from sources that aren’t required to disclose their donors – so-called “dark money” groups. Most of the dark money comes through non-profit “social welfare” groups, but shell corporations are also used.
Outside spending was about $2 billion in the 2022 federal elections and over $637 million of that was dark money. All but $25 million of this dark money was contributed to PACs (this is essentially money laundering) or was spent on activities that avoid requirements for reporting to the Federal Elections Commission (FEC). (These activities are typically ads promoting or attacking candidates but without explicitly calling for their election or defeat, and that are run before the short period prior to an election when reporting is required.) 
In a troubling but not surprising development, the non-profit dark money groups that spent the most on the 2022 elections, $346 million, are closely linked to Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress. The largest spender was One Nation, a dark money non-profit linked to Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). It spent $145 million, of which $74 million was contributed to PACs, with the vast majority going to McConnell’s Leadership Fund PAC. Note that his PAC shares staff and offices with One Nation. So much for the independence of such spending, despite the requirement for independence in the Supreme Court’s decision! One Nation also spent $71 million on ads, on which it was careful to avoid triggering reporting to the FEC. McConnell’s PAC spent more money on the 2022 elections than any other outside group: $246 million on U.S. Senate races across the country. 
Majority Forward, a dark money non-profit linked to the Democratic Senate leadership, spent over $102 million with $27 million going to ads (that avoided FEC reporting) and $76 million in political contributions (with $72 million going to Senate Majority Leader Schumer’s (D-NY) PAC). On the House side, the Republican dark money group spent $77 million, while the Democratic group spent $21 million.
Business interests spend money on lobbying in addition to campaign spending. For example, the National Association of Realtors spent $4 million on federal campaigns in the 2022 election cycle and $126 million on lobbying in the same two-year period.
Overall, $4.1 billion was spent on federal lobbying in 2022, an all-time record in terms of dollars and the highest since 2010 after adjusting for inflation. Over the course of 2022, over 13,000 organizations paid over 12,600 lobbyists. The $1.7 trillion budget bill passed in late 2022 was the subject of lobbying by 1,393 organizations. 
The top ten clients hiring lobbyists ranged from the National Association of Realtors, which spent $82 million on lobbying in 2022, to Meta (parent company for Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp), which spent $19 million. Amazon, the only individual corporation other than Meta on the list, spent $21 million. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce was second on the list, spending $81 million, followed by the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America (PHRMA, $29 million), the American Hospital Association ($27 million), and Blue Cross / Blue Shield ($27 million).
In terms of industries, pharmaceuticals topped the list, spending $372 million on lobbying in 2022, followed by electronics ($220 million), insurance ($158 million), securities and investments ($140 million), and real estate ($135 million). Electric utilities, oil and gas, hospitals and nursing homes, and health services and HMOs each spent roughly $120 million on lobbying.
With billions of dollars being spent by business interests on campaigns and lobbying, it’s clear there’s a lot at stake in federal policy making and implementation. These businesses spend this amount of money because they see a return on their investment. My next post will discuss what they get for their money.
With corporate and business interests spending so much money to buy and exercise influence over government actions, it’s no wonder that we have largely unfettered capitalism in the U.S. The result is extreme capitalism that puts returns to investors and executives ahead of all other stakeholders – workers, consumers, communities, and the public interest. This creates high levels of economic insecurity and inequality in our society.
Everyday citizens have little voice to fight back against the megaphones all this money gives to businesses’ voices. Our only hope is to elect people to office who will stand up for workers, consumers, communities, and the public interest. This is why elections and campaign financing are so important. We must all be involved and informed citizens and voters if we want to stand a chance against the onslaught of corporate and business interests’ spending to influence public policy.
 Giorno, T., 1/27/23, “Business interests spent $3.5 billion on federal political contributions during the 2022 cycle,” Open Secrets (https://www.opensecrets.org/news/2023/01/business-interests-spent-3-5-billion-on-federal-political-contributions-during-the-2022-cycle/)
 Giorno, T., 1/27/23, see above
 Massoglia, A., 1/24/23, “ ‘Dark money’ groups have poured billions into federal elections since the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision,” Open Secrets (https://www.opensecrets.org/news/2023/01/dark-money-groups-have-poured-billions-into-federal-elections-since-the-supreme-courts-2010-citizens-united-decision/)
 Massoglia, A., 1/24/23, see above
 Giorno, T., 1/26/23, “Federal lobbying spending reaches $4.1 billion in 2022 – the highest since 2010,” Open Secrets (https://www.opensecrets.org/news/2023/01/federal-lobbying-spending-reaches-4-1-billion-in-2022-the-highest-since-2010/)