A new study finds that a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision bringing on a new era of political spending gave Republicans a measurable advantage in Tennessee and elsewhere during the 2010 and 2012 state elections for legislative seats.
The review focuses on state House races. In Tennessee, Republicans gained 13 seats in the 2010 House elections (going from 51 to 64 seats in the 99-member chamber); in 2012, they picked up another seven seats, achieving Supermajority status with 71 seats.
The overall study results are summarized in a Washington Post blog, GovBeat:
The advantage isn’t large, but it is statistically significant: The researchers found the ruling, in Citizens United v. FEC, was associated with a six percentage-point increase in the likelihood that a Republican candidate would win a state legislative race.
And in six of the most affected states — Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, North Carolina, Ohio and Tennessee — the probability that a Republican would be elected to a state legislative seat increased by 10 percentage points or more. (Note: The GOP upswing was highest, 15 points, in Tennessee and North Carolina.)
In five other states — Colorado, Iowa, Texas, Wisconsin and Wyoming — Republican candidates were seven percentage points more likely to win.
“Citizens United has given corporations and labor unions new means of influencing political elections,” researchers Tilman Klumpp of the University of Alberta, Hugo Mialon of Emory University and Michael Williams of Competition Economics wrote in their paper, “The Business of American Democracy: Citizens United, Independent Spending and Elections.”
Before the ruling, labor unions were more freely able to spend on campaigns and elections. But by freeing corporations to spend their own money, the study found, “Citizens United has, on balance, increased the political influence of corporations relative to that of unions.”
The study focused on 22 states where bans on independent expenditures by corporations and labor unions were overturned by the Supreme Court’s ruling. The remaining 28 states, which never had bans on independent expenditures, serve as control states.
The full report of the researchers (PDF) is HERE. A couple of excerpts related to Tennessee:
Lastly, in Tennessee, one conservative group called the Tennessee Legislative Campaign Committee (TLCC) made over $900,000 in independent expenditures(in 2010) targeting state House and Senate races. TLCC received over $500,000 in contributions from the Republican Governors Association (RGA), whose top contributors included a number of large corporations and business groups. (Note: TLCC is a PAC controlled by the Tennessee Republican Party to help GOP legislative candidates,)
…In Tennessee, the largest independent spender in 2012 was once again the Tennessee Legislative Campaign Committee (TLCC), which spent over $400;000 targeting 21 House races…These sustained conservative efforts may explain why the effect of Citizens United on Republican election probabilities remained positive in most states after 2010, and the size of the effect has in fact increased in North Carolina and Tennessee.