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Policy Backgrounders

CED’s Policy Backgrounders provide timely insights on prominent business and economic policy issues facing the nation.

Campaign Finance: An Update on Reform Efforts

May 29, 2024

Trusted Insights for What’s Ahead™

The Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision effectively established new pathways for financial contributions and spending in federal elections. Further, the subsequent appellate court decision in Speechnow.org v. FEC led to the proliferation of groups known as “super PACs,” which are required to disclose their donors; however, donors frequently include “dark money” groups not required to disclose their donors. In this way, the original sources of donations, often quite large, are unclear. As political ad spending for the 2024 election cycle is expected to reach a record, several state efforts are also underway for state elections to increase transparency, limit contributions by the largest donors, and give more weight to donations by citizens.

  • Political ad spending in the 2024 election cycle is expected to reach a record $15.9 billion, an increase of more than 30 percent in comparison to the 2019-2020 election cycle, according to a survey by GroupM, one of the world’s largest paid advertising agencies. GroupM’s projection is higher than that of other groups, with advertising intelligence firm AdImpact projecting total spending at $10.2 billion, with $2.7 billion spent to affect the Presidential race, $2.1 billion on Senate candidates or to affect Senate races, and $1.7 billion on House candidates or races.
  • Spending on both traditional and digital media is expected to increase. This year, spending to digital platforms is expected to see a spike of 156 percent compared to 2020. One of the fastest growing forms of advertising is Connect TV (CTV) advertising, which refers to ads shown on devices such as smart TVs or mobile phones that reach streaming audiences.      
  • New York will hold its first elections this November using the state’s new public campaign financing system. In this voluntary program, New York is offering taxpayer money to provide funding matches to candidates on most small donations between $5 and $250.

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