Three months ago, ThinkProgress ran a series of profiles on several prominent right-wing attack groups that were promising to spend tens of millions of dollars — much of it raised and spent in secret, thanks to Citizens United — to unseat key Democrats across the country. Each group had its own list of target races that they would devote their considerable resources to.
With the dust finally settling after Election Day, ThinkProgress took a look back to see how effective these groups’ collective spending was at unseating Democrats from Congress and the White House.
The answer, it turns out, is not very effective at all. Despite outspending left-leaning SuperPACs and interest groups by a margin greater than 2 to 1, conservative organizations spent election night watching the Democratic majority expand in the Senate, the Republican majority shrink in the House, and President Obama win a second term convincingly. A ThinkProgress analysis of public spending records suggests that 75 percent of Democrats targeted by the biggest right-wing groups won their elections on Tuesday.
A few caveats about our numbers: because of the nature of outside groups and their ability to conceal their actual fundraising numbers, the total amount spent by these groups reflects what has been disclosed to federal election officials. Additionally, the Democrats targeted by each group may be an incomplete list since these groups do not have to disclose whether they are advocating for or against a candidate if their ads are considered “issue ads.”
Already there are indications that these groups’ biggest donors — people like Charles and David Koch and casino mogul Sheldon Adelson — are furiously seeking answers to the question of where their millions went:
“The billionaire donors I hear are livid,” one Republican operative told The Huffington Post. “There is some holy hell to pay. Karl Rove has a lot of explaining to do … I don’t know how you tell your donors that we spent $390 million and got nothing.”
Karl Rove, who is already not having a very good week, is one of the biggest recipients of GOP donor consternation. His American Crossroads SuperPAC and its sister organization Crossroads GPS, a 501(c)4, spent nearly $400 million in private donations only to emerge victorious in just two senate races, one of which was never projected to be close to begin with.