In the last full week before Election Day, party committees and PACs put on their big final push to influence the electorate. These groups' spending on independent expenditures--political communications made in support of or against specific candidates--can provide insight into which races remain the most contentious. Last week, the races that attracted the most of this spending were battleground Senate contests. Parties and PACs spent over $7 million on Pennsylvania's race, followed by the Senate contest in Colorado, which attracted $5.9 million, and the contest in Illinois, where political action committees and parties spent $5.6 million trying to get voters' attention. However, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which only concerns itself with House races, was by far last week's biggest spender, with $24.4 million in independent expenditures. This is more than twice the amount spent by the No. 2 group, the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Last week's top 10 spenders on independent expenditures were:
1. Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee ($24,398,376)
The Democrats' House committee is putting on a big final push as it seeks to maintain its majority in the House of Representatives. The committee's spending has increased steadily in recent weeks, from $9.7 million the week of October 10 to $15.5 million the week of the 17th, and again to $24.4 million last week. All of this money was spent on mailings and advertising opposing Republicans in 73 House races. The Democrats' top target was Republican Keith Fimian, against whom the committee spent $1.2 million as he challenges freshman Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly in Virginia's 11th District, a race that many election experts consider a toss-up.
2. National Republican Senatorial Committee ($10,903,145)
The National Republican Senatorial Committee spent $10.9 million last week opposing Democratic candidates in nine of this cycle's most hotly contested Senate races. Topping the list of the GOP Senate committee's prey was California Sen. Barbara Boxer, against whom the committee bought $2.8 million in advertisements. One of the committee's TV ads calls the senator "self-serving" and "ineffective." The committee also spent $2.6 million opposing Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Sestak as he takes on Republican Pat Toomey for the Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Arlen Specter.
3. Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee ($9,782,093)
Last week, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spent $2.2 million more than the week before in eight Senate races. Over one million dollars went toward radio, TV, and online advertising attacking each of four Republican Senate challengers: Colorado's Ken Buck, Nevada's Sharron Angle, Illinois' Mark Kirk, and Washington's Dino Rossi. One ad against Buck, the committee's most expensive target last week, claims that Buck's views are too "out there" and depicts a string of Colorado voters saying that they "just can't" vote for him in his race against Sen. Michael Bennet.
4. Crossroads GPS ($4,932,581)
This conservative nonprofit affiliated with super PAC American Crossroads (No. 5, below) increased its spending and broadened its focus last week, dropping $4.9 million on three Senate and eight House races, up from the $3.6 million it spent on three Senate races the week before. The Senate races were by far the most expensive of Crossroads' chosen contests--the group spent $1 million on TV ads against each Washington Sen. Patty Murray and Illinois Democrat Alexander Giannoulias, as well as $681,827 opposing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and promoting his opponent, Republican State Assemblywoman Sharron Angle. But Crossroads GPS also last week continued to fulfill its earlier pledge to push for Republican House members. The organization's most expensive House race was in Ohio's 16th District, where they laid out $447,000 opposing Democratic Rep. John Boccieri in his race against Republican Jim Renacci.
5. American Crossroads ($3,483,532)
American Crossroads and affiliated nonprofit Crossroads GPS have been the No. 1 and No. 2 nonparty spenders on independent expenditures, respectively, this campaign season. Last week, American Crossroads spent less money than GPS and spread it more thinly as well, over 11 House and 9 Senate races. The lion's share of the group's spending went toward high-profile Senate races, like those in Colorado, where Buck will face off against Bennet, or Kentucky, where ophthalmologist Rand Paul is taking on Democratic state Attorney General Jack Conway. Among House races, the most expensive was in New York's 22nd District, where Crossroads bought a TV ad attacking Rep. Maurice Hinchey for "backing [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi's failed agenda." Linking lawmakers to Pelosi has been a common tactic in Republican campaign ads this year.