So many Republicans are now saying that they no longer should be considered the party of big money. They are saying that the Dems have not only caught up and have just as many big money donors as the GOP, but that the Democrats are actually spending more. This would be interesting if it were true. But of course it’s not.
One reason that they are able to say this and get away with it is because our current political system makes it very hard to actually calculate accurately who spent what or where exactly the money came from. But even with our post-Citizens United system, we can still look at some basic facts.
The Center for Responsive Politics is a non partisan group who tracks all political spending. And according to them, approximately $40 Million more was spent in the 2014 mid-term elections than in 2010. Between the parties, candidates, committees, outside groups, and donors, at least $3.67 Billion was spent on this election.
The Center has broken down the spending into “Team Red” and “Team Blue” with the red team representing all Republican-aligned groups and the blue team representing all of the Democratic groups. They found that Team Red spent approximately $1.75 Billion across the country on these mid-terms, which is about $110 Million MORE than Team Blue spent. Clearly this is a big difference, but before you go thinking that the Dems are suffering in the money department, you should know that they still spent around $1.64 Billion of their own.
One important thing to note is that these figures do not include any money spent on “issue advertisements.” Some of the biggest donors of these ads are non-profit groups related to the Koch brothers. If the figures included this money, the Republican numbers would be significantly higher.
Another important factor that is not counted in these figures is the amount of “dark money” that was spent. Dark money means any money spent by groups, who thanks to Citizens United, do not have to disclose any donor identity information. These groups would include labor unions, trade organizations, and non-profit organizations like Americans for Prosperity which was founded by the Koch brothers. This untraceable dark money tends to be preferred by the Conservatives, while the Democrats prefer to use traceable Super PACs.
According to the Sunlight Foundation, about $140 Million in dark money was spent on this election. And because most of the dark money goes to Republican candidates, it is logical to conclude that the donors are also Conservatives.
So what does all of this mean? Well, first of all, while out-raising one’s opponent does not necessarily mean a guaranteed win, in the Senate races of this election the candidates who spent more money won over 80% of the time. But what we can really conclude is that we just spent BILLIONS of dollars to elect people who have an 8% approval rating. So, go figure.