Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Three Out Of Four Ain't Good

A new Sunlight Foundation study on money in politics finds that so far through the 2012 election cycle, some 78% of the money spent though 9/21 on election ads has come from the "Citizens United effect", meaning that three out of four ad dollars this year are new thanks to the Supreme Court's ruling that outside groups can contribute unlimited dollars to super PACs.

But it's where that money is going that should worry you.  Sure, a lot of it is going to help Mitt Romney.  But far more is going to bury Democrats in Congress.

The money spent by Super Pacs, unions, corporations and non-profit groups is more than double what those groups spent in 2010, the first campaign in which the supreme court judgment had taken effect. Although Super Pacs are usually thought of being aligned with presidential candidates, the Sunlight Foundation found that much of these groups' recent spending has been focussed on more localised electoral battles.

"A deeper dive into the data shows that the latest uptick in outside spending is focused on congressional races: even in presidential battleground states, almost all the spending by outside groups is focused on House and Senate candidates," [Sunlight Foundation managing editor Kathy] Kiely wrote.

Recent expenditure includes Crossroads GPS spending $400,000 in Nevada against Democratic Senate candidate Shelley Berkley; Workers Voice, an AFL-CIO Super Pac, logged hundreds of expenditures in the $25-60 range in Florida, indicating a get-out-the-vote effort for senator Bill Nelson, according to the Sunlight Foundation.

Of $465m of outside money spent so far in 2012 $460.8m comes from Super Pacs, corporations and other groups which do not have to register as political groups. An additional $4.1m comes from "electioneering communications": advertisements or political activities that focus on issues and policies – the oil industry, for example – and encourage voters to support a candidate without mentioning any politicians by name.

The big GOP PACs are putting those unlimited hundreds of millions where they can do the most damage, by buying Congressional races.   It's the single reason I think the GOP will actually gain seats in the House, and I think even Nate Silver is badly underestimating their chances of taking the Senate.  These last six weeks will see unprecedented spending on political ads all but locking up the airwaves.  Negative ads work, and endless streams of negative ads work very well.  I wouldn't be surprised if all these ads depressed turnout in battleground states, which is exactly what the GOP wants, too.

We'll see how much damage they will end up doing.

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