Liberal super-pacs spent twice as much this year as conservative super-pacs
As Democrats continue to hammer the evil Koch brothers and Karl Rove for their success in raising money for GOP candidates, they gladly accept cash from liberal super pacs, who have outspent their rivals at a 2-1 pace this election cycle.
President Obama and many congressional Democrats repeatedly have condemned the flood of outside money in elections, but liberal activists and Democratic-aligned groups have adopted the strategy in a slew of recent contests.
Liberal super PACs have spent $10.8 million on federal races this year -twice as much as conservative super PACs, according to the Center for Responsive Politics' tally of independent spending in federal races. Much of the money has flowed to a handful of elections to fill congressional vacancies. Liberal money also makes up 70% of the election-related federal spending by "dark money" groups - politically active non-profits that don't have to disclose the sources of their money, the center found.
In state races, unions and two billionaires promoting liberal causes led non-party, outside spending in last week's contests in New Jersey and Virginia, respectively.
"For better or worse, people are getting comfortable with the new campaign-finance landscape," said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks political money. Super PACs, which can raise and spend unlimited amounts, first emerged in 2010 after federal court rulings, including the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision overturning a long-standing ban on corporate money in elections.
The amped-up political activity by liberal groups raises the stakes for the 2014 midterm congressional elections as both parties battle fiercely for control of the Senate. Democrats hold a 55-45 voting majority in the 100-seat chamber, and Republicans need a net gain of six seats to flip control to their party.
Last year, in the first presidential contest since Citizens United, conservative super PACs outspent Democratic-aligned groups by more than 2-1. This year, Republican donors, disheartened by their failure to oust Obama and the damage inflicted by last month's government shutdown, have been slower to fund conservative PACs, said Fred Malek, a veteran Republican fundraiser who helped start a super PAC that pumped nearly $10 million into House races last year.
But don't expect any retreat from Republicans, who are closely watching the troubled rollout of the Affordable Care Act and will work to capitalize on the controversy surrounding Obama's signature legislative achievement, Malek said.
The discrepancy in spending last year didn't matter much because Obama raised a billion dollars for his own campaign.
But in an off year election, a big difference in fundraising could matter a lot in close races. Republican candidates are going to need that money if Democrats are as well funded and well organized as the McAuliffe campaign in Virginia was.
No doubt the gap will narrow in the coming months. But conservatives shouldn't take for granted that the left will be disheartened because of the failure of the Obamacare rollout. They appear more than ready to defend their turf in 2014 and will no doubt gear up for what they see as an historic candidacy by Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Hat Tip: Ed Lasky