Down Ballot Races: The Effect of Super-PAC Money

Not much comment on this one, just wanted to point out the Newsweek article found on The Daily Beast:

In a normal year, for a normal Democratic incumbent, the FOP endorsement would be a sure sign of an impending blowout. But 2012 is not a normal year—and Brown is not a normal incumbent. Over the last nine months, spending on anti-Brown television ads by super PACs and 501(c)(4) “social welfare” groups such as the Chamber of Commerce, the 60 Plus Association, and Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS has soared to more than $11.5 million; meanwhile, Brown’s average polling lead over his Republican opponent, State Treasurer Josh Mandel, has been cut in half. The FOP’s support is no longer a cherry atop the frontrunner’s sundae; it’s a shield that’s about to get battered in a very brutal, very expensive battle.

Half an hour later, a slightly less jovial Brown tells Newsweek how he’s really feeling today. “I’m disturbed,” he admits. “If it weren’t for all the outside money, this wouldn’t even be a race.”


We’re in the midst of a perfect storm of secretive spending. After McCain–Feingold banned unlimited, unregulated, undisclosed contributions to the parties themselves, the big bucks began to flow to 527s (the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth) and 501(c)(4)s (the Club for Growth). At that point, there were still some restrictions on how and when the cash could be spent. But Citizens United and a couple of related Supreme Court decisions swept away most of the rules; today, super PACs and social-welfare groups can accept unlimited amounts of money from corporations and individuals and spend it pretty much however they please. The 501(c)(4)s, such as Crossroads GPS and Priorities USA, don’t even have to disclose their donors.


Where the cash could make the biggest difference, however, is on the state level. “Dropping $15 million into the presidential race won’t be determinative,” says Rick Hasen, an expert on campaign finance at the University of California, Irvine. “Dropping $15 million into a Senate race will be a bombshell.”

Under the media radar, vulnerable Senate candidates have spent the last few months getting pummeled by outside attacks. Crossroads GPS and similar groups have spent more than $6.5 million slamming Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill for supporting Obamacare; she currently trails all three of her potential Republican challengers in the polls. In Nebraska, Bob Kerrey has taken roughly $2 million in incoming fire, including an Americans for Prosperity ad set to Psycho-style music. In Florida, billionaire Sheldon Adelson has given $1 million to a pro–Connie Mack super PAC, and Rove’s American Crossroads has reserved $6.2 million in fall airtime.

Go give it a read.


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