DATA RELEASE: Dark Money Breakdown in Nevada Senate Race '12

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 Sunlight Foundation, 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 next report we look at the 'dark money' in the 2012 Nevada Senate race. (click download images to view visual or gain access to embed code) 

In Nevada, one of the tightest Senate races of the 2012 congressional elections, the candidate with more "dark money" on their side won. In the lead up to voting day, the polling showed that Republican candidate Dean Heller and Democratic candidate Shelley Berkley were in a dead heat, with public opinion close enough that the candidate with the lead was commonly within the margin of error. Ultimately, Heller defeated Berkley by just 1.2 percent of the vote and was elected to represent Nevada in the U.S. Senate until 2019. An analysis of the 'dark money' shows:

  • Dark money groups favoring Dean Heller spent 2.3 times more money than dark money groups favoring Shelley Berkley ($9 million and $3.8 million)
  • 92 percent of independent expenditures favoring Dean Heller were from dark money groups ($9 million of $9.8 million)
  • 59 percent of independent expenditures favoring Shelley Berkley were from dark money groups ($3.8 million of $6.5 million)

Methodology: MapLight analysis of candidate committee spending; independent expenditures (disclosed) - Super PACs; and independent expenditures (undisclosed, 'dark money') - 501(c)(4), 501(c)(5), 501(c)(6) organizations in the 2012 Nevada Senate election from January 1, 2011 - December 31, 2012. Data

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EDITOR'S NOTE: Spreadsheet with top line totals available. A link to this report can be found here. Please cite MapLight if you use data from this analysis, "A MapLight analysis of data..." 

A big thank you to Robert Maguire at The Center for Responsive Politics for his assist in pulling the independent expenditure data.

About MapLightMapLight is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization that tracks money's influence on politics.

Media Contact: Pamela Behrsin

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