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The Forum

A Journal of Applied Research in Contemporary Politics

Ed. by Disalvo, Daniel / Stonecash, Jeffrey

4 Issues per year

IMPACT FACTOR 2016: 0.397

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2016: 0.476
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Volume 10, Issue 4 (Feb 2013)


Barking Louder: Interest Groups in the 2012 Election

Jeff Smith / David C. Kimball
Published Online: 2013-02-09 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/forum-2013-0012


This essay compares interest group activity in the 2012 federal elections with the previous two cycles. We examine the role of interest groups in financing campaign activities and influencing voters. Coming in the wake of the Citizens United case and other court decisions that relaxed campaign finance restrictions, the 2012 election marked an explosion of outside spending by organized interests, particularly independent expenditure advertising. While outside spending may not have produced the outcomes some expected in 2012, it blurs the distinction between candidates and outside groups and may be shifting the balance of power in campaigns away from candidates and toward organized interests. We conclude with a series of predictions about the nature of interest group activity in future election cycles.


About the article

Jeff Smith

Jeff Smith is Assistant Professor in the Urban Policy graduate program at The New School. His academic interests include campaigns, public policy, and legislative strategy. A former Missouri state senator, he is the author of a forthcoming book about his experience in politics and prison, where he spent 2010 after his US House campaign illegally coordinated with an outside group.

David C. Kimball

David C. Kimball is Professor of Political Science at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. He is the co-author or co-editor of four books and several articles. His research and teaching interests include voting and elections, election administration, political parties, and interest groups.

Published Online: 2013-02-09

The spending totals for Super PACs and individual groups below come from The Center for Responsive Politics (http://www.opensecrets.org/outsidespending/index.php, accessed December 14, 2012).

Data on outside spending in 2012 Senate races come from the Sunlight Foundation (http://reporting.sunlightfoundation.com/outside-spending/candidates/, accessed December 19, 2012).

Some observers have explained the outcome of the presidential election by finding fault with the Romney campaign and candidacy [e.g., (Hamburger 2012)]. However, Romney received more votes than the GOP Senate candidate in 27 of 33 states with a Senate race. If Romney was such a bad candidate then most of the Republican Senate candidates were subpar as well.

We exclude Senate races without a major party candidate and we exclude races with a prominent third party or Independent candidate.

There were two Democrats contesting the seat due to California’s recently adopted top-two primary system.

Citation Information: The Forum, ISSN (Online) 1540-8884, ISSN (Print) 2194-6183, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/forum-2013-0012.

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©2013 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin Boston. Copyright Clearance Center

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