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Interest Group Spending on Campaigns Setting Records in 2010

3 years ago
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The money flowing into campaigns to buy TV ads and send brochures to your mailbox is staggering.

And as David Corn notes elsewhere, we may never know where much of this money comes from or exactly how much is spent. That's because of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision earlier this year, which allows corporations to spend unlimited amounts on election activities, and IRS rules that allow that money to flow through nonprofits that don't have to release their donors' names.

Using a spreadsheet downloaded from the Federal Election Commission and reports from the Wesleyan Media Project, which tracks and analyzes television advertising in federal elections, we crunched some numbers.

As of Friday morning, with 18 days to go to Nov. 2, here's how the spending shakes out:

$1.2 billion: Raised by House and Senate candidates, according to the FEC.

$879 million: Spent by House and Senate candidates, according to the FEC.

$200 million: Spent on television ads between Sept. 1 and Oct. 7, according to the Wesleyan Media Project.

$151 million: Spent by outside groups trying to influence the general election, according to FEC records.

$41.7 million: Spent by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee for the general election.

$27.4 million: Spent by the National Republican Congressional Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee for the general election.

$18.3 million: Spent by outside groups on the U.S. Senate race and three congressional races in Colorado.

$10.9 million: Spent by American Crossroads, one of Karl Rove's independent groups supporting GOP candidates in the general election.

Candidates will still raise and spend more money than outside groups this cycle, said Erika Franklin Fowler, assistant professor of government at Wesleyan and director of media project. But outside spending is on the rise.

"We are seeing a strong increase in interest group activity, especially concentrated in the House," she said. "It's nearly doubled since 2008."

Not all of those groups must disclose their spending. The Wesleyan project tracks television ad spending in part through information gathered from television stations.

"Any groups that are nonprofits do not have to report their activity to the FEC and, in fact, they don't have to disclose their donors at all," Fowler said.

For instance, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a nonprofit, spent more than $9 million on television advertising between Sept. 1 and Oct. 7, according to the Wesleyan study released earlier this week. That placed the Chamber second on the list of interest groups buying ads, behind the Republican Governors Association. Only two of Wesleyan's top 10 spenders on TV advertising leaned Democratic -- Bay State Future in Massachusetts and Citizens for Strength and Security.

And with the rate of spending skyrocketing virtually each day, the Wesleyan numbers are old news in a sense. In the Colorado Senate race between Democratic incumbent Michael Bennet and Republican Ken Buck, for instance, independent spending totaled $10.4 million through Sunday. By the end of the day Thursday, that spending exceeded $14.4 million. That race tops the nation for independent spending.

Buck and Bennet, who both faced difficult primaries, raised a total $13.3 million -- $10 million for Bennet, $3.3 million for Buck -- for the entire campaign through the end of September. It's one of several races around the country where candidates may end up being outspent by outside interests, ranging from political party groups to independent interests such as the Chamber, American Crossroads and others.

Pennsylvania's Senate race between Democrat Joe Sestak and Republican Pat Toomey ranks second in outside general election spending at almost $9 million, followed by Missouri's Senate race between Republican Roy Blunt and Democrat Robin Carnahan at $7.7 million.

Meanwhile, there's plenty of time for the outside spending to really accelerate. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee raised $15.5 million in September, and has $25.6 million to spend. The National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee raised $8.3 million and has $19.2 million to spend. American Crossroads and its partners are expected to spend $50 million in the next weeks.

"Certainly Citizens United fundamentally changed the landscape of the campaign, especially with direct effects on political advertising," Fowler said.

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15 Comments

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georgewcuddy111

GOP IS BACKING DOWN FROM DEMOCRATS , LOOKS LIKE THEY ARE AFRAID TO FORCE AN ISSUE
ON ANYTHING ,

March 17 2011 at 3:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
j319s

If you all sat down and made a list of what our governments have accomplished you might chnage your mind. As a whole our government has done a great job. Why do you all hate them so much. Go back 30 years and look at the quality of the air and water.

October 17 2010 at 8:41 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
gsandersjr

Taxed Enough Already! Only an extremist could say such a thing? Let's have a tea party, all us extremist that don't like our gov't spending (wasting) money that will take generations to pay back. How much is the interest on a trillion dollars? How about 10 trillion?

October 17 2010 at 12:01 AM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply
monseigneurdev

America you are watching the banks getting bailouts, bonuses and the government officials spending millions on themselves and Trillions on their friends. Don't trust the Democrats. Trust checks and balances and a distribution of power. Vote for a Republican Congress to reign in an out-of-control White House.

October 16 2010 at 7:51 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to monseigneurdev's comment
dstockw200

Are you kidding..So I guess you trust the Big Corps/Oil/Banking/Insurance to protect what's best for the common man in America.....You got to be kidding me! We just had a major Oil spill most likely due to De-Regulation, we barely survived a potential 2nd Great Depression because of the Big Banks/Mortgage business'e loving the almight dollar and I can go on and on and on....Stop watching FIX news and do some real research...Amazing

October 18 2010 at 12:11 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
andrc657

Karl Rove should disclose his donors if he has nothing to hide.

October 16 2010 at 7:31 PM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply
luvtopleaze

In other words, the unions have bought the Democratic party for a few more years.

October 16 2010 at 5:05 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to luvtopleaze's comment
Cindy

Unions protect people. The Tea Party wants to do away with them so that people have to work in conditions like those miners in Chile. Hope you have a job that protects you from work hazards.

October 16 2010 at 6:33 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
doncrites

We are being played by both sides. Unite as Americans.

October 16 2010 at 4:22 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to doncrites's comment
Paul

Maybe it's time to reveal those contributors - they had agendas in many cases that had nothing to do with the candidates they were giving to - they just wanted to prevent the "other" guy" from getting in to office - Art Robinson, in Oregon is one case in point - A hedge fund mogul from Long Island, NY made a massive contribution just to keep his opponent - a staunch opponent of Wall Street regulations out of office.

November 03 2010 at 1:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Powderfinger boy

in otherwords, america's rich corporations have bought the republican party.

October 16 2010 at 12:18 PM Report abuse +7 rate up rate down Reply
tara*

I'm sure this is what our founders envisioned when they wrote the constitution and stood against a corrupt British crown for unfair taxation. They risked being executed as traitors to ensure a system that would be for sale to the highest bidder, as it is today. Wouldn't they be proud of the progress we've made to ensure a permanent underclass and the system where aristocrats will now always rule over the peasants, galvanizing the oligarchy we have created today?

October 16 2010 at 11:10 AM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to tara'*s comment
eve

Well said Tara, We continue to have an aristocracy where the rich can buy and election ala bloomberg and currently Linda the wrestling queen. But instead of titles like Duke, Earl, and Baron, the titles are now CEO, CFO, etc.

October 16 2010 at 7:41 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
homeroid2

Why is "bailout" money being spent on campaigning especially by the UAW?

October 16 2010 at 8:06 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

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