Outside Spending: The Final Tally

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By the time voters went to the polls last week, outside groups had spent more than $454 million to influence campaigns. But there’s little evidence that all that spending benefited Republicans much more than Democrats, as the final tallies on spending were actually pretty close.

A total of $197.4 million was spent backing Republican candidates, while groups spent $181.1 million for Democrats, according to Federal Election Commission data compiled by the Sunlight Foundation.

On both sides, the overwhelming majority of outside money was spent on negative ads. Of the total for Republicans, $155.9 million was spent on ads opposing Democratic candidates. Outside groups spent $144.8 million on ads opposing Republican candidates.

Democratic support was more likely to come through party committees like the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Republican support was more likely to come through outside groups like American Crossroads or Crossroads GPS—sister groups backed by conservative operatives (including Karl Rove). Those two groups alone spent $21.5 million and $16.7 million, respectively. 

This was a record-setting year for outside spending, thanks in large part to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which opened the floodgates for independent expenditures. But the money rushed in for both Republicans and Democrats.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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