Study: Outside groups, secret money far more prominent than ever before

Study: Outside groups, secret money far more prominent than ever before
Image: Kantar Media, CMAG, Wesleyan Media Project

In the long debate over the changing nature of election advertising, one thing is now clearer than ever: Outside groups that can raise and spend unlimited money – sometimes without disclosing the sources of their funds – make up a larger portion of election spending than at any point in the last 16 years, by far.

A new study co-authored by the Wesleyan Media Project and the Center for Responsive Politics provides the first ever analysis of ad-buy data from 2000 to the present cycle, tracking more than 700 ad sponsoring organizations, all of which have been standardized and coded according to their type and level of disclosure.

The term “outside group” generally refers to organizations that spend money in elections without coordinating their activities with the candidates themselves.

Independent groups are not new, but they haven’t always been prominent ad buyers.

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