Obama 2012: Brought to You by Big Brother

by Vins
Published: Updated:

A study conducted by Alternet has found financial ties between the Obama Administration and surveillance industries. From raw data provided by the Federal Election Commission and the Internal Revenues Service, researchers found, contrary to their initial belief, industries essential to surveillance were strong supporters of Barack Obama 2012 election campaign. These businesses contributed to Obama in equal or higher percentages to that of his Republican counterpart, Mitt Romney.

The study assesses contributions from firms and their executives by integrating contributions from “independent” expenditures and Super Pacs. In the larger sample of “business as a whole”, covering firms of all sizes, Romney received support from 41% and Obama accepted support from 24%. In the concentrated sample of big business, firms that rank in Fortune’s list as well as those listed on Forbes 400 Richest Americans, donated 76% to Romney and 56% to Obama. These numbers are alarming as big business is typically linked with the Republican Party, however Obama received a substantial amount of aid from corporations that are “suspicious” of him.

Among his supporters, Obama was above his average levels of financial backing in six industries: telecommunications, software, web manufacturing, electronics, computers, and defense. These industries are essential to the transformation of the national security state and its current policy of extensive surveillance. Obama’s strong support from these industries implies that he fully intends to maintain or expand the national security measures and possibly surveillance. His administration also has a track record of harsh treatment of whistleblowers such as the case of Chelsea Manning.

This progression of national security is often associated with the Republican Party and the George W. Bush administration with the creation of the Patriot Act that extended tools available to law enforcement in efforts to thwart terrorists and their plans, and Dick Cheney’s statement of a “unitary executive” in which the President is in control of the entire executive branch. However, contributions to Obama’s campaign by particular industries suggest that surveillance is one of the few bipartisan efforts.


Thomas Ferguson, Paul Jorgenson, and Jie Chen, “Who Buys the Spies? The Hidden Corporate Cash Behind America’s Out-of-Control National Surveillance State,” AlterNet, October 21, 2013, http://www.alternet.org/economy/surveillance-state-and-democrats?paging=off&current_page=1#bookmark.

Student Researcher: Aziza Maqsudi (DePauw University)

Faculty Evaluators: Smita Rahman and Kevin Howley (DePauw University)