State of Dark Money: Virginia Senate Race Saw the Most Dark Money

admin | March 04, 2013

Four years ago, the Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United v. F.E.C. that corporations, unions, and other organizations can spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections. The court decision interacted with existing laws and led to an increase in 'dark money'—spending to influence elections where the source of the spending is hidden from the public.

Since then, dark money and other forms of independent expenditures have become a leading area of growth in political spending, contributing to the most expensive elections in history and adding more secrecy around political money in elections.

Using data from and the Federal Election Commission, MapLight has produced a series of reports and visualizations on how the growth of dark money has impacted the nature of spending in elections. In this report we look at the dark money in the 2012 Virginia Senate race.

During the 2012 election cycle, dark money groups—groups not required to disclose their donors to the Federal Elections Commissionspent more on Virginia races than on races in any other state. In Virginia, the groups focused their spending on the Senate race between Democratic candidate Tim Kaine and Republican candidate George Allen.

  • $19.7 million was spent by dark money groups to influence the Virginia Senate race in 2012, more than in any other congressional race that cycle.
  • 95 percent of the dark money spending in the Virginia Senate race was spent on negative advertising and other means to oppose candidates ($18.8 million of $19.7 million).
  • Dark money groups favoring George Allen spent 5.6 times more money than dark money groups favoring Tim Kaine ($16.7 million and $3 million).

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About MapLight: MapLight is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization that reveals money's influence on politics. If our work has been helpful to you, please consider supporting us.