“Outside groups have become a dominate force in House and Senate elections, and there is no sign of them going away anytime soon,” adds Nathan Gonzales, deputy editor of the non-partisan Rothenberg Political Report. Tuesday was the deadline for congressional campaigns, party committees and super PACs to report their fundraising totals from the first three months of year to the Federal Election Commission. In addition, with less than seven months to go until Election Day, the latest numbers serve, as a barometer of the influence outside groups will have in deciding the outcome of some crucial contests.
American Crossroads is the super PAC co-founded by Karl Rove. The group reports it brought in more than $5 million just in March alone. That is more than they raised all of last year. Rove’s organization spent heavily and was a key player in the 2010 and 2012 races but faded into the shadows in 2013 and turning the spotlight over to Americans for Prosperity. Senate Majority PAC is the leading outside force trying to help the Democrats keep control of the Senate. The group is reported as raising $11.1 million in January, February, and March, raking in their total to $20 million so far this cycle.
However, the Democrats are playing defense in the battle for the Senate; they are tasked with defending 21 of their 36 seats that are up for grabs in November, with half the seats in red states. The group has spent nearly $9 million on vulnerable candidates including Mark Begich (D-AK).
House Majority PAC is the House version of the Pro-Democrat Senate Majority PAC. The group recently announced that it raised a record $5.2 million during the first quarter. Add that to the more than $10 million the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee – the official House Democratic re-election arm – reported Wednesday and you’ve got one impressive haul. Nevertheless, regardless of their recent riches, Democrats still need a net gain of 17 seats this November to win back control of the Republican-led House, a feat political handicappers say is unlikely in part due to the shrinking number of competitive congressional districts. The most important numbers are from non-profit groups and are not required to file quarterly figures. One of those groups is AFP, which is being backed by the deep pockets of the billionaire industrialist Koch brothers. The organization has shelled out more than $30 million so far this election cycle to run ads – most of them focused on health care – that attack Democrats and praise Republicans in key Senate and House races.
The explosion in massive spending by outside groups has occurred in large part due to a 2010 Supreme Court ruling that changed the rules and opened the floodgates. Four years later, the money continues to pour in, and it continues to make a major impact on the campaign trail.