Tales from the Trail

“Outside” spending for 2012 election already beats 2010

 

There are still six weeks before Election Day on Nov. 6, but spending by Super PACs and other outside groups has already hit $465 million, more than all of the entire 2010 campaign season, with Republican-aligned groups spending well over twice as much as those backing Democrats.

Democratic-aligned Super PACs have spent $108.4 million this year, and Republican-aligned Super PACs have spent $270.5 million, according to the Sunlight Foundation, which tracks political spending. The total independent expenditures by other Super PACs was $15.6 million.

Spending by outside groups in 2010 totaled $454 million, the group said.

And much of the latest uptick in spending is focused on congressional races, even in the closely contested ” swing” states ultimately expected to determine whether Democratic President Barack Obama is re-elected or his Republican challenger Mitt Romney ousts him from the White House.

Washington, D.C.-based Sunlight attributed 78 percent of 2012′s outside spending to the effect of Citizens United, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that eliminated many restrictions on campaign spending, The ruling lifted limits on corporate and union spending in elections, calling it “free speech” and equating it to any individual’s.

Sunlight said more than $272 million came from Super PACs, which only came into being after the ruling in January 2010.

Outside campaign groups can coordinate – with each other

 

Super PACs and other outside campaign organizations are barred from coordinating with the candidates they support or political parties, but there is nothing keeping a Super PAC from coordinating with another Super PAC, or several Super PACs. And indeed, some of them do.

Jonathan Collegio, director of public relations for American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, Karl Rove’s conservative Super PAC and non-profit, said outside groups on the right work together all the time.

“There’s a lot of coordination among outside groups on the right, all of which is allowed,” he said at the Reuters Washington Summit on Monday. “Starting in 2010, Crossroads started bringing together a lot of the organizations that were going to be spending a lot of money in the issue and election debate. The goal there was to maximize the efficiency of what everyone was doing.”

Lawyer behind Super PAC ruling launches his own

The lawyer behind the case that opened the door to U.S. "Super PACs" and more campaign cash now has one of his own. Thousands of U.S. dollars are seen here in this November 3, 2009 file photo at a Westminster, Colorado bank. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

The conservative lawyer who helped end political spending limits for corporations has now taken advantage of new campaign finance rules that allow “Super PACs” by launching one of his own.

Republican James Bopp, who advised Citizens United in its case to eliminate restrictions on campaign contributions by companies and unions, filed paper work last week with the U.S. Federal Election Commission to create his USA Super PAC.

Big campaign bucks don’t always spell victory

Expectations for massive fund-raising in the 2012 election may obscure one point — big bucks don’t always lead to victory. And in fact, too much spending — especially in the form of too many advertisements — can turn off voters.

There have been several notable examples of heavy, but ultimately fruitless, outspending in recent elections.

In the 2010 midterms, Republican Meg Whitman, the billionaire former chief executive of eBay, spent $140 million of her own money, or about $43 per vote,to campaign for governor against Democrat Jerry Brown.  Brown spent $7.50 per vote to defeat her by 12 percentage points, in a race that was a rare bright spot for Democrats in elections that saw most Republicans sweep to victory.

Romney still hasn’t decided on a White House run … right?

USA-POLITICS/ROMNEYMitt Romney hasn’t decided whether to run for president. But of course that doesn’t mean he’s not.

Romney, who unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination in 2008, tells ABC’s Good Morning America that a formal decision about a possible White House run is still “down the road.”

“I’m not a candidate. I’m just having fun,” is the former Massachusetts governor’s laughing explanation about why he wasn’t wearing a necktie on national TV.

Supreme Court votes 6-3 on attending Obama’s speech

OBAMA/

Six U.S. Supreme Court justices plan to attend President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night, the same number as last year when Obama criticized the court’s corporate political spending ruling.

There had been speculation that fewer justices might show up after Obama’s rare rebuke for the ruling by the conservative majority striking down corporate election spending limits.

A court spokeswoman said six of the nine justices plan on going. She said one who won’t be attending is Justice Samuel Alito, who happens to be in Hawaii this week for a previously scheduled law school speech.

Feds unlikely to launch campaign finance probe anytime soon

For weeks, leading Democrats have castigated pro-Republican special interest groups involved in the current election campaign for what they describe as secretive fundraising practices. USA/

In an effort to call further attention to the activities of groups like American Crossroads GPS, a political fundraising committee which GOP guru Karl Rove helped to set up, some prominent Democrats and non-partisan election watchdogs have written law enforcement agencies demanding official investigations.

But there is little indication that any relevant agency is going to launch an  in-depth probe anytime soon.

from Reuters Investigates:

Following the money in O’Donnell’s campaign

Mark Hosenball has been in Delaware and Pennsylvania reporting on the midterm election campaign for our special report "Conservative donors let Christine O'Donnell sink."

If that's not enough O'Donnell for you, here's his report from a bastion of conservative thinking in Delaware:

By Mark Hosenball

Republican Delaware senate candidate Christine O'Donnell may be the darling of both national and local Tea Party groups. But she's not particularly beloved at one of Delaware's most august and esteemed conservative organizations.

Politicians score big in the NFL — campaign contributions

Politicians have hit pay dirt in the National Football League, with some teams providing far more fertile turf than others.

The San Diego Chargers haven’t been much of a powerhouse on the field during the past 20 years.

But in the game of national politics, the Chargers have been a high-stakes participant, leading the league in campaign contributions during that time frame.