Many of the groups spending the most money are nonprofits that allow their donors to give money without their names being publicly disclosed. They are permitted to spend money to push for political candidates, as long as the majority of the money they raise also goes towards other purposes, such as advocacy of a particular issue.
Ellen Miller of the Sunlight Foundation told ABC News she believes this type of secrecy warps the political process in favor of the wealthy, and helps foster public cynicism about congress and Washington politics.
"Basically anyone can give anything to anyone and, and be completely anonymous, anonymous about it if they so choose," she said. "So whether it's Convention financing or superPAC financing or issue group financing or even just direct campaign contributions, the public is becoming less and less tolerant. They are tired of seeing politics swing the way of Wall Street, not of Main Street."
The sway of big money will be just as evident in Charlotte next week when Democrats gather for the Democratic National Convention. As ABC News reported earlier this month, organizers sent around a menu to top fundraisers and donors, offering "premier credentials" that access luxury suites and the convention floor to those who donate the most. Someone who could raises $1 million topped the convention host committee's list, while top flight packages were also spelled out for those who donatde $100,000 directly, or raised more than $650,000 (Trustee Package), $500,000 (Piedmont Package), $250,000 (Dogwood Package) and on down.
Unlike Republicans, the organizers in Charlotte have said they are attempting to increase the access and the number of events tailored to the party's rank and file members.
"We've gone further than any convention in history to find ways to provide greater access for the public," said Democratic National Convention Committee spokeswoman Joanne Peters.
Miller, of the Sunlight Foundation, said the conventions used have a fundamental role in the selection of each party's presidential candidate, but that has largely faded. "Now they're really nothing more than … opportunities to be wined and dined by big corporate America," she said.