WASHINGTON - Labor unions have dominated spending on independent campaign ads so far this election season, despite a recent Supreme Court decision that freed spending by corporations, a Washington Post analysis shows.
The findings are an early indication that corporate money is not flooding into the election as many had predicted after the landmark Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission decision.
So far this year, $24.7 million in independent spending has been reported to the Federal Election Commission, campaign filings show. Unions have spent $9.7 million or 39 percent of the total, compared with $6.4 million or 26 percent spent by individuals and $3.4 million spent by corporations.
Not all spending on political ads is included in the totals. So-called issue ads, which mention candidates and their positions but offer no endorsement, do not have to be reported to the government, unless they run directly before an election.
In January, the Supreme Court struck down laws and previous cases that prohibited corporations from paying for hard-hitting campaign ads. But some argue that corporations are still likely to begin spending heavily on elections.
"We would be very pleasantly surprised if there's not a gusher of special interest money," Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., said.
Van Hollen is pushing a bill recently passed by the House requiring disclosure of funding sources for advertising. The bill faces uncertain prospects in the Senate.