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.
6. Michigan Republican Party ($3,027,896)
The PAC affiliated with the Michigan Republican Party last week spent on radio and TV ads, mailings, and phone campaigns in four of Michigan's tightest House races. The party dropped over half of its independent expenditures last week--$1.6 million--opposing Democratic Rep. Gary Peters in the Ninth Congressional District. The party also invested $790,000 in the Seventh District House race, widely considered a toss-up, represented by Democrat Mark Schauer, who is battling Republican Tim Walberg, who held the seat from 2007 to 2009.
7. NEA Advocacy Fund ($1,947,000)
The National Education Association, which with 3.2 million members is the largest union in the U.S., has budgeted $17 million via its Advocacy Fund to independent expenditures this election season. The group invested $1.9 million last week in advertising opposing Republicans in just three Senate races. One million dollars went toward a radio ad opposing Washington's Dino Rossi, $547,000 bought a TV ad against Colorado's Buck, and $400,000 went toward mailings opposing Kentucky's Paul.
8. National Republican Congressional Committee ($1,686,074)
Independent expenditure spending by the Republican House committee took a nose dive last week, down to $1.7 million from $10.2 million the week before. That $1.7 million went toward survey research and advertising supporting GOP candidates and opposing Democrats in 35 races. Though the committee's spending has dropped, it still made an impact in at least two tight races last week, spending over $180,000 opposing each Wisconsin Rep. Ron Kind and freshman Virginia Rep. Tom Perriello.
9. Super PAC for America ($1,256,915)
Clinton-adviser-turned-Republican-strategist Dick Morris has set an ambitious goal of a GOP gain of 100 House seats on Tuesday. As a way of helping the Republicans reach that goal, Super PAC for America, founded and chaired by Morris, has put in a late push for Republican House candidates nationwide. The PAC began making independent expenditures on October 19 and has disbursed $1.6 million since that time on political communications. Its $1.3 million in independent expenditures last week went toward TV advertisements supporting Republicans and opposing Democrats in 13 House races. Tennessee's Scott Desjarlais received the most support from Super PAC, with $173,000 of advertising in his race against Rep. Lincoln Davis. West Virginia's Elliott Maynard was close behind, garnering $169,000 of support in his contest with Rep. Nick Rahall.
10. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees PEOPLE ($1,200,079)
This public service employee union PAC narrowed its focus to three candidates last week, down from five the week before. The union last week made advertising purchases opposing Republicans in one Senate and two House races. The largest portion of the PAC's money, $528,513, went toward advertising against Colorado's Buck. In addition, this AFSCME PAC spent $409,750 opposing Ohio Republican Jim Renacci, who is up against Rep. John Boccieri, and $261,816 against Michigan's Walberg, who will take on Schauer on Election Day.
Data covers the latest available electronically filed reports of expenditures made from October 24 through 30. 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.