The year of 'Consider the Source'



The 2012 election was the least transparent and most expensive presidential campaign of the modern era. The Center for Public Integrity's Consider the Source project exposed the shadowy political organizations that flourished in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, revealing the super donors and PACs behind the candidates.

The Supreme Court reinterpreted the law about how money from corporations and unions could be spent on campaigns. Super PACs and other outside groups made possible by the court's decision spent nearly $1 billion on advertising in federal races.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

 Two conservative groups associated with former Bush adviser Karl Rove raised millions, much of it from undisclosed donors. The two groups, American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, spent more than $175 million on 2012 campaigns.

Tony Gutierrez/AP

An analysis by the Center for Public Integrity found that of $43.2 million raised by the pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future during the primary season, $20.5 million, or 48 percent, came from finance industry donors.

Super PAC Prosperity First spent more than $294,000 in less than a week in 2012 on ads aimed at defeating Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop (shown with wife Kathy in 2010) in New York's 1st District. The contest was an example of super PACs targeting House members. Despite the spending, Bishop defeated Republican candidate Randy Altschuler.

Kathy Kmonicek/AP

Rick Hill, the Republican candidate for governor of Montana, lost to state Attorney General Steve Bullock despite help from American Tradition Partnership, a nonprofit that bombarded voters with mailers slamming the Democrat. The Center for Public Integrity identified the group’s backers, which included groups dedicated to advancing “right-to-work” legislation in the states.

Matt Gouras/AP


The flood of spending by independent super PACs and nonprofits unleashed by the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision helped Republican nominee Mitt Romney stay competitive in 2012, but it wasn’t enough to overcome President Barack Obama’s dominant fundraising machine.