Democrats and liberals — traditionally more skeptical about the role of big money and mega-donors in politics — beat Republicans in the outside money battle for the first half of the year.
Groups backing Democratic candidates and causes in 2014 and 2016 all posted robust fundraising numbers, as did organizations supporting President Barack Obama’s top second-term priorities, according to a POLITICO review of campaign finance reports filed Wednesday. Conservative groups — accustomed to dominating the outside money game — underperformed expectations with lackluster hauls.
In the battle for control of the House, the Democratic super PAC House Majority PAC raised $3 million in the first six months of the year.
On the other side of the aisle, both GOP groups working on behalf of Republican House candidates failed to raise more than $1 million — combined. The YG Action Fund raised about $170,000, while the Congressional Leadership Fund took in just under $600,000. Both super PACs work independently of the party structure to elect more House Republicans.
“It’s got to be a disappointment for them,” said Andy Stone, spokesman for House Majority PAC.
He attributed the Democratic success to donors being more willing to give compared to Republicans after seeing last fall’s election results and comparing groups’ return on investment.
Of course, this is just a snapshot in time. GOP mega-donors could easily write a couple of checks to close the gap or surpass Democratic spending. And as the 2014 midterms get closer, Democratic donors could give more to fend off expected Republican gains in Congress.
“There’s a lot of ground to cover between now and next November — and believe me, no one is interested in Nancy Pelosi becoming speaker of the House again,” said Chris Bond, spokesman for YG Action. “The story heading into 2014 is, and will remain, how liberals are going to explain their unpopular, job-killing policies to middle-class families, and not conservative groups’ off-year finance reports.”
YG Action is also doing a significant amount of work and issue advocacy through its 501(c)(4) arm — like OFA and Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS part of the class of nonprofit groups very familiar thanks to the IRS scandal. In July, the group hired two new staffers, and added additional three outside consultants.
Rove’s new super PAC, the Conservative Victory Project, also failed to take off in the first six months of 2013. The group launched with much fanfare in February and has vowed to intervene in GOP intra-party battles on behalf of the most electable Republican candidate, keeping fringe candidates from sinking the party’s chances at retaking the Senate.
A source familiar with the group’s plans said that it is still in a “start-up phase” and that no fundraisers or overtures to donors have been made.
The other two Rove-backed outside groups — the super PAC American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS — posted a $3.37 million joint haul. That’s off the pace from a similar point in the 2011 — something that a spokesman chalked up to the lack of an ongoing presidential race. The two groups ultimately raised more than $300 million in 2012 on Senate races and the presidential cycle.
The group Senate Majority PAC, which only focuses on Democratic Senate candidates, matched the two GOP-leaning groups, posting about a $3 million haul.
On the research side, Republicans have set up an operation to mirror the Democratic research and tracking firm American Bridge. That effort, America Rising, took in just $22,048 since launch in February — none of it from donors.
The group has a for-profit arm that has been hired by the Republican Party for research services on Senate races. The only two receipts for the group came from the for-profit side. A spokesman for American Rising said that the group had not started fundraising in earnest.
“America Rising PAC had our first fundraiser and brought on a finance director in July and are very optimistic about being able to fund a robust operation that will hold Democrats accountable in the midterms and 2016,” said Tim Miller, spokesman for America Rising.
American Bridge, which has been in operation since late 2010, raised about $3 million in conjunction with its nonprofit arm and plans to spend about $18 million for the 2014 cycle.
Organizing for Action, the nonprofit formed by former Obama campaign staffers to support the president’s agenda, has posted one of the biggest fundraising numbers of the last six months. The group raised $13.1 million dollars according to voluntarily released fundraising totals.
OFA has been pushing members of Congress hardest on immigration reform, among other issues, hoping to create momentum in Congress. Working on the same hot button issue is the pro- group Republicans for Immigration Reform. That group posted a haul of just over $190,000 in the first six months of 2013.
The pro-gun control group Americans for Responsible Solutions — founded by ex-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly — posted a total of $6.6 million in the first six months of 2013. Of that total, $3.2 million came from small-dollar donors who gave less than $200.
Democrats spent much of the 2010 and 2012 cycles fretting about the two court cases that opened the campaign cash floodgates worrying that big money would benefit mostly Republicans. Obama — who benefitted from a super PAC that supported him — said during the 2012 campaign that the flood of money was bad for the country.
But regardless of who wins a campaign fundraising cycle, supporters of free spending in politics have long argued that neither party stood to gain a significant advantage in the long run.
“I’ve always said that the Citizens United and SpeechNow.org cases would not systematically favor either party over time. A lot of the hysteria about Citizens United was partisanship substituting for serious analysis. Perhaps this will calm some progressives down,” said Brad Smith, former FEC commissioner and chairman of the group Center for Competitive Politics and a staunch defender of outside money.
From POLITICO on July 31, 2013.