Facing the prospect of major losses in both houses of Congress, Democratic Party committees aggressively increased their campaign spending last week. For the first time in recent weeks, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee surpassed the National Republican Campaign Committee in weekly spending on independent expenditures--political communications made in support of or against specific candidates, without coordination with those candidates or their opponents. Democrats saw a boost in allied nonparty spending as well; while the list of the top 10 spenders on independent expenditures has been mostly the domain of Republican-leaning organizations, three of last week's six top non-party groups spent their money entirely in opposition to Republicans or in support of Democrats.
Last week's top 10 spenders on independent expenditures were:
1. Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee ($15,476,679)
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee kicked its spending into high gear last week, spending $15.5 million dollars in opposition to 63 Republican candidates, up nearly $6 million from the week before. The two most expensive targets were Illinois businessman Robert Dold, who is running against Democrat Dan Seals in Illinois' 10th District (which is being vacated by GOP Rep. Mark Kirk, who is running for Senate), and Ohio state Sen. Robert Gibbs, who is running against Democratic incumbent Zachary Space in that state's 18th District.
2. National Republican Congressional Committee ($10,246,133)
The Republican House committee actually spent less last week than it had the week before, and on fewer candidates as well. Last week, the National Republican Campaign Committee spent $10.2 million opposing 54 Democratic candidates and supporting two Republicans, down from the $11.9 million spent opposing 64 Democrats two weeks ago. However, the committee does not appear ready to dial down its aggressive efforts; Chairman Pete Sessions from Texas said last week that he expects his party to gain over 40 seats, more than it needs to win a majority. The committee dropped the most--$437,000--on Illinois Democratic Rep. Phil Hare, and also spent $368,000 against Maryland Rep. Frank Kratovil.
3. Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee ($7,573,491)
The Democratic Senate committee ran ads on radio, TV, and online against eight Republican candidates, with the leading target being Dino Rossi in Washington, who trails Democratic Sen. Patty Murray by a slim margin in recent polls. The Democrats' Senate committee spent nearly $1.5 million against Rossi, and also spent over $1 million on two other candidates. They poured another $1.2 million into the Pennsylvania Republican., attacking GOPer Pat Toomey, who is taking on Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak,and they dropped another $1 million in Colorado against Republican Ken Buck, the committee's most expensive target overall this cycle, who is challenging Sen. Michael Bennet.
4. National Republican Senatorial Committee ($7,338,966)
Like the Democratic Senate committee, the National Republican Senatorial Committee spent its money on eight Senate races last week. However, the Republicans took a slightly different tack, spending in support of GOP candidates, in addition to spending against eight Democrats. And the Republicans' list of races also differed slightly from that of the Democrats. While Dems spent against Linda McMahon in Connecticut, the Republican committee chose not to spend on that race and instead spent in support of Tea Party favorite Joe Miller and against Democrat Scott McAdams in Alaska, a race on which Dems did not spend last week. Miller is the GOP nominee against McAdams in a race where incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski is running as a write-in candidate.
5. American Crossroads ($5,117,343)
Though American Crossroads and its nonprofit sister organization, Crossroads GPS, had kept pace with party campaign committees in spending in recent weeks, they found themselves behind all four party campaign committees last week. Still, their combined spending puts them on par with the parties in terms of fiscal power. Both American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS last week increased their spending. American Crossroads added $300,000 to its spending from the week before, and allocated the most money to TV spots, mailings, and phone calls opposing Bennet in Colorado and Senate candidate Robin Carnahan in Missouri, dropping around $940,000 on each. Altogether, the group supported six Republican and opposed seven Democratic Senate candidates, plus independent Florida candidate and Gov. Charlie Crist. Crossroads also spent on six House races, including $164,000 in opposition to Texas incumbent Chet Edwards, its biggest House target.
6. Crossroads GPS ($3,576,916)
Crossroads GPS increased its weekly spending by $1.1 million, even as it tightened its focus from four to three races, with all of its $3.6 million in independent expenditures going toward TV ads opposing Democratic Senate candidates. Crossroads spent $1.2 million last week against Washington's Murray, $1.2 million on Illinois Democratic candidate Alexander Giannoulias, and $1.1 million against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in Nevada.
7. America's Families First Action Fund ($3,566,715)
Much news coverage this election season has focused on so-called "super PACs," committees that file with the Federal Election Commission as "independent expenditure-only" committees. Though Republican super PACs have by far received more attention (and spent more) than Democratic-aligned groups, America's Families First Action Fund entered the top 10 last week with a flurry of activity including TV, radio, and direct mail campaigns against 14 Republican House candidates. Chief among these was Florida Republican House candidate Steve Southerland, who is running for the seat currently held by Democratic Rep. Allen Boyd. America's Families First spent $432,000 on TV and direct mail campaigns against Southerland.
8. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees PEOPLE ($2,100,236)
The Colorado and Pennsylvania Senate contests are the two races in which this American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees PAC spent the bulk of its money, in opposition to Republican candidates Buck and Toomey, respectively. But in addition to those two Senate contests, The public service employee union also spent against three Rust-Belt Republican House candidates: Pennsylvania's Mike Kelly ($399,000), who is challenging Rep. Kathleen Dahlkemper; Ohio's Jim Renacci ($343,000), who is up against Rep. John Boccieri; and Michigan's Tim Walburg ($238,000), who will take on Rep. Mark Schauer on Election Day.
9. Commonsense Ten ($1,846,030)
Along with America's Families First (No. 7, above), the Commonsense Ten is another of the most prominent Democrat-supporting super PACs this cycle. Last week, it spent in five Senate races around the country and one House race. The most prominent target was Rossi, in Washington, against whom Commonsense Ten spent $1.2 million. In addition to spending on battleground Senate contests, the group also spent $176,000 opposing Republican Benjamin Lange, who is challenging Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley in Iowa's First Congressional District.
10. National Rifle Association of America Political Victory Fund ($1,361,660)
The National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund spread its $1.4 million widely last week, in 75 House and Senate races around the country. Though most of the expenditures went toward mailings in these states and districts, the group also purchased radio and TV ads in several contests. Though gun rights is a cause often associated with Republicans, the NRA PAC supported several Democrats last week as well, including Oklahoma Rep. Dan Boren and California Rep. Dennis Cardoza. Still, like many other organizations on this list, the National Rifle Association's top targeted races were the Senate contest in Pennsylvania, where the group spent $2.9 against Democrat Sestak, and the Senate race in Colorado, where the fund allocated $2.2 million toward supporting Republican Buck.
Data covers the latest available electronically filed reports of expenditures made from October 17 through 23. As the Democratic and Republican senatorial committees may file their expenditure reports on paper, rather than electronically, the data on their expenditures may be incomplete.