The total amount of money spent on political advertisements this year by outside interest groups, including Super PACs and industry-backed 501(c)4 organizations, has so far surpassed all previous election cycles to date. Now, according to a new report by Open Secrets and with less than one month to go before election day, the largest surge in cash has yet to come.
In a post-Citizens United world, non-party outside spending in 2012 was greater than that of the 11 previous election cycles combined as of October 6. At least $517 million has been spent by Super PACs, "dark money" organizations, and other "non-party" groups so far this cycle, compared to less than $444 million combined for every cycle since 1990, the group's research shows.
In addition, a report in the New York Times shows how innovative spending strategies by these groups have targeted smaller congressional and state races where large infusions of secretive cash are tipping the scales in less expensive media markets.
Yet, despite the changing strategies and huge influx of cash, Open Secrets says one historical consistency will be preserved: the majority of this year's spending is still to come. Nearly all election cycles since 1990 have seen the most spending in the final month leading up to election day, typically making up about half of total money spent.
According to Open Secret's calculations, outside spending could double within the next few weeks.
"The 2012 race is shaping up to be like no other in recent history. As a result of the Citizens United and subsequent [Supreme Court] decisions, overall outside spending has exploded, funded predominantly by only a sliver of donors. And more of that spending than ever before is being done by groups that don't fully disclose their donors... Whatever else the coming month holds, it probably includes an unprecedented amount of money," the group states.
If the predictions ring true, disclosed non-party outside spending alone could total nearly $1 billion in 2012.
Additionally, a new kind of 'super PAC' has flooded campaigns in the last remaining months of US elections, taking an obscured, "scalpel" like approach to swaying public opinion. On both sides of the Democrat-Republican fence, lesser known House races have drawn increased attention from smaller, more discreet, super PAC spenders, where "advertising is cheaper or the airwaves less cluttered." House races across the country have been transformed "with a barrage of outside money, swamping incumbents and challengers alike," the New York Times reports.
"Unlike the largest groups, which operate with all the trappings of a presidential campaign — Web sites, spokesmen, news releases announcing major advertising buys — the smaller groups often fly under the radar, rarely announcing themselves to the world beyond their ads. In some cases, little is known about the groups save for the name of the person filing the incorporation papers," the Times reports.
"And while the major groups intervene in dozens of races and function as auxiliaries of each party, the smaller groups often pursue narrower agendas, or are linked to specific candidates."
These smaller races are seeing vast amounts of money and attention from outside spending groups, spreading the wealth down from the higher profile senate and presidential races.
# # #