The five Republican stooges on the Supreme Court must be very happy. They clearly hoped to give Republicans an advantage in future elections when they took the extreme judicial activist measure in the Citizens United v. FEC decision of overturning a major chunk of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance–reform law. By opening the floodgates to unlimited secret corporate contributions, they figured that they would help the party of corporate cronyism outspend Democrats. So far, they are being proven right.
The most recent financial disclosure reports released by the Federal Elections Commission over the weekend show conservative Super PACs heavily out-raising and out-spending liberal ones. And while President Obama will be able to compete financially because his campaign will raise plenty of money on its own, Democrats may be at a serious disadvantage in down-ballot races where candidate fundraising is considerably lower and a national Super PAC can deluge a small media market with misleading negative advertisements and mailings.
“Conservative interest groups have dumped well over $20 million into congressional races so far this year, outspending their liberal opponents 4 to 1 and setting off a growing panic among Democrats struggling to regain the House and hold on to their slim majority in the Senate,” reports the Washington Post. “The money could be particularly crucial in races below the national radar that can be easily influenced by infusions of outside spending.”
So far this money is being used to drive the future Republican caucuses in the House and Senate further to the right. From the Post:
One example came this week in Nebraska, where a dark-horse Republican Senate candidate upset two better-funded rivals in the GOP primary thanks in part to a last-minute, $250,000 ad buy by a billionaire-backed Super PAC. And in Indiana this month, veteran Senator Richard G. Lugar was ousted in the GOP primary by challenger Richard Mourdock with the help of millions of dollars in spending by conservative groups. The Club for Growth, which backed a losing candidate in Nebraska, spent more than $2 million to help Mourdock in Indiana.”
Up until now there were other theoretical explanations—besides the obvious one, which is that it pays to be a tool of the rich and powerful—for why Republicans had so much more Super PAC money than Democrats. Initially Republicans supported the Citizens United Supreme Court decision that created Super PACs and Democrats, especially President Obama, did not. So Republicans jumped out to an early lead in Super PAC fundraising, which allowed them to vastly outspend Democrats in close Congressional races in 2010. Then in 2011 and early 2012, Republicans were engaged in a competitive presidential primary while Democrats were not, and Super PAC spending was heavy on behalf of candidates such as Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich but not President Obama. Obama gave Democratic donors the green light to pour money into the Priorities USA Super PAC, but it has not kept pace with its Republican counterparts. The Huffington Post reports, “The group has raised $10.57 million since being founded in 2011, far behind the $50-plus million raised by Restore Our Future and the $28 million raised by American Crossroads.”