The Citizens United decision opened the floodgates for outside groups to unleash a record amount of spending this season, amounting to “more than every other midterm cycle since 1990 combined.” While the outside spending has disproportionately favored the GOP, many Republicans insist they are fighting a deluge of pro-Democrat spending.
Last night, the Chairman of the Republican Governors Association, Gov. Haley Barbour (R-MS), joined the chorus of wails. On PBS’s Newshour with host Judy Woodruff, Barbour celebrated the potential for a “bigger sweep” in the elections today compared to the one in 1994. In explaining the difference, Barbour claimed that labor unions “outspent” the GOP “pretty heavily” to “save Democratic seats” because they knew “this was going to be a hard year for them”:
WOODRUFF: So, you think this year could be a bigger sweep for Republicans? Is that what you’re saying?
BARBOUR: Well, it could be. It could be. Certainly, in the House, that’s possible.
The difference is, this year, we got outspent pretty heavily. The labor unions saw this coming early, and they have poured money in to try to save Democrat seats. And it hasn’t been any secret to the news media or the Democratic incumbents that this was going to be a hard year for them because the president’s policies are unpopular.
The only “difference” evident in that statement is the difference between his facts and reality. While the actual Democratic party retains an edge in spending, pro-GOP outside groups dwarf all spending by the top labor unions. According to the Center for Responsive Politics’ OpenSecrets.org, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the America Action Network, American Crossroads, and Crossroads GPS top the list as this year’s biggest spenders. Together, these four conservative groups spent $99.6 million — $71.5 million above the SEIU and A.F.S.C.M.E labor unions’ combined $28.1 million:
As the New York Times notes, A.F.S.C.M.E also spent funds on other election issues like local referendums, which, if included in the calculation, would put the union at the top. But, according to the Federal Elections Commission’s metric based on direct spending on candidates, A.F.S.C.M.E. falls to number 10 and the Chamber jumps to the number one outside spender.
Ironically, one of the architects of campaign finance reform — Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) — is seeing “not only his legislative legacy but his Senate career endangered” because of “over $2 million” in critical ads “that used to not be legal.” What’s more, American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS “plan to keep running ads attacking Democrats well after the election.” In celebrating the “death of campaign-finance reform,” the Wall Street Journal notes today that, “while Republicans have traditionally been more reliant on parties, sooner or later they were going to adapt” to exploit outside influence, “and this year they have.”