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Tom Toles
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Our favorite data-driven prognosticator of elections, Nate Silver, is predicting that the Republicans have a 62% chance of winning a majority in the Senate, while the Democrats have a 38% chance of keeping the majority. 538 Politics That’s a whopping 24 point spread. And over the last few weeks, the GOP chances have been increasing.

How is this happening? Simple, money.

More than $100 million has been spent on just one Senate race in North Carolina. That flood of money bought around 80,000 TV ads — at one point this month that means that there were three TV ads running every five minutes, and that’s just for a single race.

Campaign spending has exploded since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling, which opened the door to more money from corporations and labor unions. Critics say that gives wealthy donors a disproportionate voice.

“The most affluent donors are calling the shots,” says Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics. “They’re picking races to target … that offer an opportunity to flip the Senate and therefore shift the balance of power in Washington.

And it isn’t 1% anymore. According to the NY Times, in the 2012 elections 1% of 1% of the US population accounted for 28% of all campaign contributions. And that’s just the money we know about. In the upcoming election we now have no way to know where the majority of the money is coming from:

More than half of broadcast advertising in the midterm elections has been paid for by groups that reveal little or nothing about their donors. Overwhelmingly, the main beneficiaries have been conservative organizations.

UPDATE: Just a day later and Nate Silver has now raised the GOP odds of taking over the Senate to 63.2%, increasing the point spread to 26.4.

UPDATE2: It hasn’t even been 24 hours since my update this morning, and now Nate Silver has raised the GOP odds of taking the Senate to 65.7% (and the point spread to 31.4%).



  1. Hassan wrote:

    “Since July 3, the largest super PACs aligned with Democrats have raised four times the money of pro-GOP super PACs, and have now spent $60 million to Republicans’ $38 million, data compiled by The Wall Street Journal shows.”

    Tuesday, October 21, 2014 at 8:24 am | Permalink
  2. David Freeman wrote:

    HASSAN: That article was published Sept 19; one month is a long time in politics. The WSJ,IMHO, is only a little more reliable than Faux News. The article is also very misleading in that the numbers refer to Democratic PACS and Republican PACS and not the “conservative outside groups” which do not report their numbers. As a North Carolina resident I can assure you that anti-Hagan ads are running at least 5 to 1 over ads favoring Kay Hagan. These organizations claim to be non-partisan so they can get tax exemption but their ads are all anti-democrats without mentioning the Republican.

    That article was bullshit. Perhaps it wasn’t lying but it was misleading and biased and outdated.

    Tuesday, October 21, 2014 at 9:04 am | Permalink
  3. PatriotSGT wrote:

    The DEM super PACs had outraised GOP PACs through about the end of Sept. Now the GOP is catching up, but the DEMs are still way out in front (see excerpt below).

    Here’s the excerpt:
    “Still, for the 2014 cycle, the top three liberal groups are trouncing the conservatives in super PAC fundraising, $134 million to $58 million, and the left has by far the most generous donor of disclosed cash in Steyer, a retired San Francisco hedge fund billionaire. He has given $41.6 million to his group, including $15 million last month alone”

    Super PACs are used extensively by both parties, so what’s the problem. Or is it ok if your guy does it, but not the other. That’s hypocritical. So if we look at it through non-partisan eyes, the DEM super PACs are also fueled by evil hedge fund billionaires, which helps explain why we complain about our lack of prosecution of financial of the financial sector and why the DEMs didn’t go all out in supporting OWS.

    Tuesday, October 21, 2014 at 9:57 am | Permalink
  4. Iron Knee wrote:

    What’s the problem? Are you kidding me? The problem is that elections have become legalized bribery. Don’t you get it? What kind of argument is “the liberals do it too, so what’s the problem?” It should be illegal for ALL parties.

    And did you read the post? Most of the money is (supposedly) non-partisan, so the donors do not have to be disclosed, but this dark money is overwhelmingly going to conservative groups.

    And this doesn’t include all the free advertising coming from Fox News and the WSJ (both of which are owned by Rupert Murdoch).

    Tuesday, October 21, 2014 at 10:57 am | Permalink
  5. Michael wrote:

    I don’t think that Politico article is a slam dunk, because it’s not a complete analysis. The article is only comparing “the top three liberal groups” with the top three conservative groups. It doesn’t consider all groups on both sides. For instance, note that the top three liberal groups have raised $134 million, while $290 million will come from just the Koch brothers alone. Also, as IK pointed out, the analysis doesn’t consider non-partisan “issue” PACs…who just happen to advocate issues and policies that align with the GOP platform. But they don’t get counted as conservative groups.

    Regardless, it is a problem no matter who is the one that is doing the spending.

    Tuesday, October 21, 2014 at 11:55 am | Permalink
  6. Hassan wrote:

    “What’s the problem? Are you kidding me? The problem is that elections have become legalized bribery. Don’t you get it? What kind of argument is “the liberals do it too, so what’s the problem?” It should be illegal for ALL parties.”

    Then why point fingers to GOP only? They dont even pretend to be bothered about it. Democrats pretend to be bothered about it and yet outdo GOP on it. Not to mention free publicity they get from MSNBC.

    Tuesday, October 21, 2014 at 12:31 pm | Permalink
  7. bard wrote:

    lol Free Publicity from MSNBC? Fox News easily doubles the ratings of MSNBC.

    Tuesday, October 21, 2014 at 12:44 pm | Permalink
  8. Jon wrote:

    $100,000,000 spent on ads divided by 80,000 ads averages $1,250 per ad. Is advertising really that cheap, or is the $100,000,000 a gross UNDERestimate of what is really happening?

    Tuesday, October 21, 2014 at 1:08 pm | Permalink
  9. PatriotSGT wrote:

    IK I agree 100% that we need to get Super PAC money out of politics. What I’m saying it is not just a GOP issue.

    I see it in my state with Blue attacks against Red opponents where the Blues far outraise the Reds.

    If we’re asking either party to help get rid of this problem, then we will get no help. The political elites of each side are 100% bought by the big money.

    Tuesday, October 21, 2014 at 1:38 pm | Permalink
  10. Michael wrote:

    Jon, I suspect it’s both. If you’re making a huge bulk ad purchase, the marginal cost of each is probably pretty cheap. How else would local mom-and-pop businesses ever be able to afford to advertise? At the same time, I suspect the $100M is an underestimate.

    “What I’m saying [is] it is not just a GOP issue.” Yes and no. I think we would all agree that the insane amount of money in politics is very, very bad, and both parties are guilty in that regard. But the reason the GOP tends to get more blame on this issue is the source of the contributions: a lot of money from a few people (the GOP model) or a little money from a lot of people (the Dem model). Obama’s campaigns raised crazy amounts of money, but the median contribution was incredibly small. Is it a bad (corrupt) thing if you raise $50,000,000 by having 1,000,000 people donate $50 each? Is that just as bad (corrupt) as raising $50,000,000 by having 2 people write $25,000,000 checks?

    That’s an exaggeration and oversimplification, but it illustrates the point. There is a general perception (rightly or wrongly) that the wealthy elite tend to favor the GOP and have disproportionate sway in the process. There certainly are exceptions (e.g., the tech industry tends to lean left, Hillary is very friendly with many wealthy donors, and so on), but the exceptions tend to prove the rule.

    As for publicity on MSNBC vs. Fox, when is the last time that a Democrat went from being a paid commentator on MSNBC to being a presidential candidate? I can name plenty GOP candidates (Huckabee, Palin, Gingrich, Santorum, for starters) that have been paid Fox News contributors while they were preparing for a presidential run. I’ve never seen any Dem do that.

    Tuesday, October 21, 2014 at 2:55 pm | Permalink
  11. Iron Knee wrote:

    I apologize if it sounds like I was saying that the Republicans who only raised money using Super PACs. I was not.

    However, a) it was the conservatives on the Supreme Court who created the Super PAC monster in the first place; b) Republicans have frequently blocked efforts to get rid of money in politics; and most significantly, it is by far Republicans who are benefiting from the “non-profit” superPACs who claim to be non-partisan (and even claim to be non-political). The point of this post was that it is clear that this soft money is influencing the upcoming election dramatically.

    It is foolish to think that Democrats could take the high road and turn down SuperPAC money. But they didn’t create the problem, and they are working to solve it (I will admit that it will benefit the Democrats if they are able to eliminate SuperPACs, so they don’t get any moral points for that). But I would be against SuperPAC money even if eliminating it would hurt the Democrats, since I think it has helped elect a boatload of crappy Democrats. And worst of all, even Democrats have to spend all their time fundraising, so in the end, everybody loses (except the plutocrats).

    Anyway, I wasn’t trying to blame the Republicans. I was just pointing out that it is clear that money can buy elections, and that is exactly what is happening.

    Tuesday, October 21, 2014 at 6:35 pm | Permalink
  12. great article, thanks for this info

    Tuesday, October 28, 2014 at 10:38 am | Permalink