Eliza Newlin Carney for CQ Roll Call:
The Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling that blew the lid off campaign spending five years ago has also ushered in a Gilded Age for the booming political consulting industry. The paychecks earned by the professionals who create and place ads, raise money, take polls, manage communications and direct strategy draw less scrutiny than the billionaire donors who now drive the increasingly deregulated political marketplace. But political consultants have cashed in handsomely, and are earning more money with less oversight than ever before. In the three federal elections since the Supreme Court threw out limits on independent political spending, consultants have pocketed a healthy cut of the $13.6 billion spent on campaigns. In the recent midterms, which cost $3.7 billion, $275 million of it was spent by outside groups whose activities are partly or completely undisclosed. Such groups are exempt from FEC rules that bar candidates and parties from misusing campaign money. That leaves consultants who work for those groups unfettered by gatekeepers or regulators.