Do corporate PACs or Labor PACs spend more money in congressional elections?

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. What trend do you see in the chart above?

  3. Why do you think that is?

  4. What is one consequence of this trend?

  5. Is this good news?

  6. What do PACs do, anyway?

  7. And just what is the relationship between PACs and interest groups?

  8. Explain whether PACs have a generally positive impact on democracy.

  9. What specifically does the U.S. Constitution say about PACs?

  10. Over the past century, What has happened to the percentage of American workers in unions?*

  11. How do you think this Trend has impacted American politics?

  12. What is one policy labor unions would likely support that corporate groups would oppose?

  13. Explain which party labor PACs are most likely to support.*

  14. What were the five biggest PACs in the last election cycle?*

  15. Explain whether politicians who are politicos, trustees, or delegates are more likely to respond to the requests of PACs.

  16. Describe how taking money from a PAC could impact a politician’s political campaign and their likelihood of election.

  17. Imagine that the 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution outlawed PACs. How would that impact American politics?

Visual Extension*

Learning Extension

Read The Brookings Institute’s report on PAC giving.

Action Extension

Contact YOUR U.S. Representative and ask them what PACs they take money from and how it influences their voting? Share their response in class or online.

Our World In Data Extension

Our Animals in Clothes Extension


More than a hobby Lobby

AP US Government and Politics

How much $ was spent to lobby the U.S. government in 2016?

Center for Responsive Politics

AP US Government and Politics

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. Surprised?

  3. What adjective best describes the amount of money spent on lobbying?

  4. If you were to buy pizzas with the money spent on lobbying Congress in 2016, and each pizza cost $12, how many pizzas could you buy?

  5. Is all this lobbying legal?

  6. Who makes the rules about the legality of lobbying?

  7. Who benefits from this lobbying?

  8. Who doesn't benefit from this lobbying?

  9. Some lobbyists work for groups like the Red Cross, the Sierra Club, or the National Educators Association! Others work for weapon manufacturers, golfers associations, or tobacco companies. Overall, do you think that lobbyists have a positive impact on US politics?

  10. What big story does the data tell?

  11. Why do you think spending on lobbying has doubled in less than 20 years?

  12. What is the most important consequence of all this money spent on lobbying?

  13. How specifically does lobbying affect elections in the US?

  14. What do lobbyists actually do?

  15. If you were to become a lobbyist, what group or company would you want to lobby for?

  16. Imagine that lobbying and lobbyists were outlawed. How would the US political system most change because of this?

  17. Based on your knowledge of the American political system, Respond to the following Claim: the data from the chart good news. The people with the money to pay for lobbyists are smart and hardworking and they should be able to translate that into political power. Anybody who wants political power can have it if they are willing to work for it.

  18. Why do these groups and businesses spend all this money to lobby the government?

  19. What group spent the most money on lobbying in 2016 and how much did they spend?*

  20. What sector of industry spent the most on lobbying in 2016?**

  21. in Federalist No. 10 James Madison wrote about factions which he warned could undermine the union of the whole. he wrote: “By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.” Based on this quote and your knowledge of Federalist No. 10, what would Madison say about lobbyists and their impact on the union of the whole?

Take our Survey
Lobbying makes America more democratic.

Learning Extension

Read the report and check out the groovy graphs and charts about lobbyists, money and politics from Open Secrets!

Bonus Chart*

Bonus Chart**

Pug in a Sweater Extension

AP Pugament and Pugatics

AP Pugament and Pugatics

Our World In Data Extension

Animals in Clothes Extension


On average, how much of a raise do politicians get when they become lobbyists?

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  1. How accurate was your prediction?
    What is the story this infographic tells?

  2. Is this good news?

  3. Why do you think politicians get such a raise to become lobbyists?

  4. What is one positive consequence of this?

  5. What is one negative consequence of this?

  6. Make a claim about politicians and lobbyists and support it with one piece of evidence.

  7. If half of U.S. Senators become lobbyists, who are they lobbying?

  8. When politicians become lobbyists we call this the revolving door. Why do you think the U.S. Congress does NOT make a law outlawing politicians becoming lobbyists?

  9. Elizabeth Warren, Senator of Massachusetts, has proposed legislation that would ban politicians from becoming lobbysists for life. Could they be lobbyists after life? Would you support Warren’s proposal?

  10. Do you think it’s likely this proposal becomes law?

  11. What do you think the following would think about that proposal?



Political Parties

Interest Groups

Politicians from either major party

Donald Trump

House Members



Learning Extension

Read this list from Open Secrets of all the former politicians who are now lobbyists!

Action Extension

Contact your member of congress and ask them their opinion on Elizabeth Warren’s anti- revolving door proposal. Share their response in class or online.

Political Cartoons Extension

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Wacky Road Sign Extension

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Election 2016 Cost

AP U.S. Government and Politics

Within the nearest billion, how much $ was spent on the 2016 elections?


AP U.S. Government and Politics

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. What most surprised you about this data?

  3. What trend do you see in the data?

  4. Why do you think that is?

  5. What is one consequence of this?

  6. What is the primary effect of this over $7billion being spent in this year's elections?

  7. Who is all this spending good for?

  8. Who is this bad for?

  9. Overall, is this good or bad news for democracy?

  10. Does all this money help us become more educated, informed, or wise in our political choices?

  11. What are some other positive ways $7billion could be spent?

  12. Where does most of this campaign spending go?

  13. What questions do you have about this data?

  14. Did you or your family donate in this year's elections?

  15. Which cost more, presidential or congressional races?

  16. What American elections are not even included in this data?

  17. If you were queen or king for the day and could set any limit on campaign spending, explain what spending limit you would set:

  18. As the amount of money spent on elections increases, the percentage people voting decreases. Explain this paradox:

  19. What would be two possible ways to decrease the amount of money in elections?

  20. How different do you think this year's presidential election would have been had there been a strict limit on campaign spending?

  21. Based on this chart, how much money would you project will be spent in the 2020 elections?

Learning Extension

Scroll through Open Secret's detailed charts and graphs to get a good idea of the total impact of money in presidential politics.

Action Extension

Here's a list from Bill Moyers of 8 things you could do to help get money OUT of politics.

And here's a list from me of 1 thing you could do to help get money INTO politics: give money to a candidate!

Read these lists and do one of the things! Share your action on social media or in class.

Bonus Chart

Buying Democracy

AP Government and Politics

On average, how much does it cost to beat a House Incumbent?

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. What most surprised you about this chart?

  3. What is one trend you see in this chart?

  4. What is one explanation for the trend?

  5. What is one consequence of the trend?

  6. Is this good news?

  7. What is the connection between this chart and the following terms: gerrymandering, democracy, federalism?

  8. In 2016, 97% of all House incumbents won reelection. Why do you think that is?

  9. What is the connection between the cost of beating an incumbent and the chance of beating an incumbent?

  10. Based on the data from the chart above, what would you assume the numbers for the 2016 election looked like?

  11. How does this affect the policy and laws we get out of Washington?

  12. Would this information make you likely to challenge an incumbent for office?

Learning Extension

Scroll through this chart from Open Secrets of every district in the nation to see how the incumbents in your state did in the 2016 election.

Action Extension

Contact your U.S. House Representative and congratulate them for how well their district has been gerrymandered and how well they outspent their opponent. Share your correspondence in class or online.

Bonus Chart