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Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate race is garnering national attention, with Democrat John Fetterman and Republican Mehmet Oz running to replace retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey. A new report examines how outside spending from political action committees (PACs) and national donors affects voters.
The report from American Promise includes recent survey results that say more than 70 percent of Pennsylvanians think big donors have too much political influence.
As they can expect to see hundreds of millions of dollars poured into political ads for the Senate race, Bill Cortese of American Promise said “dark money” can create a sense of mistrust among voters.
“Pennsylvania voters deserve to learn about the candidates who are running and make their own decisions on this, without being influenced by outside groups,” said Cortese. “Democrats, Republicans, independents all agree that this outside money — from people who, most of the time, don’t reside in Pennsylvania — is troubling.”
Fetterman’s team has raised over $16 million, a large portion from organized labor, as well as a big donation from a D.C.-based progressive super PAC.
TV celebrity Oz has raised over $15 million. He’s supported in part by the American Leadership Action PAC, which raised over $4 million.
Jennifer Mann is an Allentown-based consultant and former state representative. She said over the years, the money funneled into races has skyrocketed, in Pennsylvania and elsewhere.
Mann added that when a majority of campaign donations are coming from a small but wealthy group of people, it discourages others from participating in the electoral process.
“What we want to do is go back to what the intent is, in the founding of this country,” said Mann. “And that’s for citizen legislators, for regular folks from all walks of life, to participate in the process. They’re just being drowned out by specific agendas and big money.”
State Rep. Meghan Schroeder, a Republican from Bucks County, is calling on Congress this month to enact the “For Our Freedom” constitutional amendment, which would give state lawmakers the “authority to regulate” political campaign donations.
Emily Scott is a reporter and producer in Philadelphia for Public News Service, where this story first appeared. She previously worked at WHYY, Philadelphia’s NPR station and is a 2018 graduate of Temple University and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. Support for this reporting was provided by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.
Originally published June 18, 2022.