A pair of political groups cofounded by George W. Bush adviser Karl Rove last week spent more on independent expenditures than five of the six major party committees. The group, American Crossroads, and its nonprofit affiliate, Crossroads GPS, spent $3.5 million in independent expenditures last week, a figure that topped all but the National Republican Congressional Committee, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission. This represents a sea change from recent elections. In the 2004, 2006, and 2008 elections, national party committees were the top spenders on independent expenditures, political communications that an organization makes in support of or against specific candidates, without coordinating with those candidates or their opponents.
Overall, Republican candidates have an overwhelming advantage in terms of outside support, as shown by a look at the top spenders. Among the top 10 groups funding independent expenditures last week, the only two groups giving their support exclusively to Democratic candidates were Democratic Party committees.
In contrast, seven groups supported Republicans exclusively. Aside from the National Republican Congressional Committee, the most prominent spender among these organizations was conservative American Crossroads. Only one group among the 10--the National Association of Realtors Political Action Committee--was bipartisan in its spending. Spending on independent expenditures has risen sharply this year as a result of the Supreme Court case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, decided in January 2010, which lifted a ban on corporations and unions broadcasting advertisements supporting or opposing particular candidates. While these groups are still limited in what they can contribute to political candidates, they can spend unlimited amounts on independent expenditures. But unlike national party committees, some of these groups, like the nonprofit Crossroads GPS, do not have to disclose their donors.
Below are the 10 groups that spent the most on independent expenditures last week.
1. National Republican Congressional Committee ($5,382,422)
The House GOP's campaign committee far and away outspent all other groups last week, with a total that more than doubled the total spent by its Democratic counterpart, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (No. 3, below). The money was spent on both ads and polling, opposing 44 Democratic candidates. The NRCC spent the greatest amount--nearly $200,000--on advertising opposing Tennesee Democratic state Sen. Roy Herron, who is running for the open House seat from Tennessee's Eighth District. The committee also spent big on opposing two Democratic incumbents: $186,000 went to ads opposing North Dakota's Earl Pomeroy, and $167,000 went toward ads opposing Missouri's Ike Skelton.
2. Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee ($2,715,814)
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spent its $2.7 million last week targeting seven key Senate races. The committee's most expensive target was Colorado Republican Ken Buck, with over $734,000 spent on TV advertisements advocating his defeat. The committee also spent nearly half a million dollars opposing Connecticut Republican Senate candidate Linda McMahon and almost $465,000 in opposing Illinois Republican Rep. Mark Kirk, who is running for Barack Obama's old Senate seat. Democrats also targeted five other Republican Senate hopefuls: Delaware Tea Party favorite Christine O'Donnell, Pennsylvania's Pat Toomey, Missouri's Roy Blunt, and West Virginia's John Raese
3. Democratic Congressional Campaign Comittee ($2,686,462)
The House Democrats' committee spent $2.7 million opposing 29 GOP House candidates last week. The committee spent the most on two races in particular, spending over $180,000 on communications opposing James Renacci, hoping to unseat Democratic Rep. John Boccieri in Ohio's 16th Congressional District, as well as Harold N. Johnson, who is battling incumbent Democratic Rep. Larry Kissell in North Carolina's Eighth District.
4. American Crossroads ($2,345,329)
This Rove-founded group has kept pace with national party committees in its spending on political advertisements. Last week, the group focused on seven high-profile Senate races. The biggest targets included Colorado Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, whom the group opposed with $724,000 in advertisements and mailings, and Illinois Democratic Senate candidate Alexander Giannoulas, whom Crossroads opposed with $618,000 in TV advertisements. Together with its affiliated nonprofit advocacy group, Crossroads GPS (No. 6, below), American Crossroads today said it would be rolling out nearly $4.25 million in political advertisements in eight states this week.