For partisans and pundits, last night's election results weren't unexpected. The more troubling story, though, is the very real impact record-breaking fundraising and spending will have on the next Congress.
Our political system is more squarely in the hands of big donors and special interests than ever before.
In a memo released last night, we provided some of the key trends from this cycle:
- A lot of ink has been spilled about outside spending—but candidates themselves raised and spent campaign cash at record levels. We don’t have the final numbers yet, but House and Senate candidates were on track to spend nearly $2 billion this election cycle. Outside spending fueled this dramatic increase in fundraising by widening the number of races in play and forcing candidates to spend more time raising money to defend themselves instead of allowing them to use their time talking with voters.
- Secret donors spent hundreds of millions this election cycle. We may not know their names, but we know what they want and so will members of the next Congress. Outside groups funded attack ads this cycle with millions from wealthy donors and corporations. We may never know their precise identities, but we know who they are—the same corporations and wealthy individuals that have been bankrolling campaigns for years. Big Oil. Wall Street. Insurance giants. And they’ll expect a return on their investment from the 112th Congress.
- Democratic and Republican candidacies were buoyed by roughly the same amount of money, but it came from different vehicles. Democrats in competitive seats, given the head start in fundraising and their control of power in Washington, D.C., raised much more through candidate committees and their party apparatus. Republicans depended on tens of millions in outside spending by groups that could raise unlimited, relatively unregulated money from secret sources.
- This is just a warm up act for 2012. The spending in this midterm is projected to be $4 billion – a 40 percent jump from the last midterm in 2006. What is 2012 going to look like? Sen. Mitch McConnell has already said Republicans’ main goal is to make President Obama a one-term president. Democratic funders will respond in kind. We estimate that spending on the 2012 election will exceed $7 billion.
Americans didn't vote to give special interests more control, but it's likely that's what they'll get. We'll continue to fight back. Join us.