Federal Politics

Published — October 18, 2012 Updated — May 19, 2014 at 12:19 pm ET

Stealth spending on the rise as 2012 election approaches

Overwhelming percentage of interest group spending on negative ads

Introduction

If there was a silver lining for open-government advocates in the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling that unleashed corporate and union spending on elections, it was that the identity of those who pay for all those annoying ads would be made public on a regular basis.

It hasn’t quite worked out that way.

Since Labor Day, spending by outside groups taking advantage of the high court’s Citizens United decision totaled a little more than $229 million, including unions. Forty-four percent of the total — $100 million — has come from non-disclosing, nonprofit corporations.

The clearest example comes from the top two spenders, two organizations that share the same post office box in Washington, D.C.

American Crossroads, the so-called super PAC co-founded by Republican strategist Karl Rove, has spent $33.1 million since Labor Day, according to Federal Election Commission records. Its top donor is Texas billionaire and businessman Harold Simmons, who along with his company, Contran Corp., has given $13 million to the group so far this election, according to a Center for Public Integrity review of Federal Election Commission records.

Second is Crossroads GPS, the nonprofit sister organization of American Crossroads, also co-founded by Karl Rove, which has spent $30.3 million. Its top donor is — unknown. Crossroads GPS was organized as a nonprofit, “social welfare” organization. The Internal Revenue Service does not require it to disclose its donors to the public, nor does the FEC.

Both groups, which back Republicans, can pay for the same type of “express advocacy” ads, urging people not to cast a ballot in favor of a particular candidate — often in not-very-friendly ways.

Rounding out the top five spenders are the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, also a nonprofit, at No. 3 ($16 million); Priorities USA Action, at No. 4 (which favors President Barack Obama, $15.3 million); and House Majority PAC at No. 5 (which favors House Democratic candidates, $9.2 million).

Unions can make large donations to super PACs and direct expenditures from their treasuries thanks to Citizens United. So far, the direct spending totals a little more than $4 million.

For the presidential race, independent expenditures since Labor Day total $121 million. Twenty-seven percent was aimed at helping Obama; 71 percent at helping Romney.

If it seems ads are mostly negative, it is not your imagination. Eighty-eight percent of independent campaign spending went to negative ads, mailings and other materials.

Even super PACs, which do reveal their donors, at times report contributors that — you guessed it — don’t reveal their donors.

The Now or Never super PAC, which shifted from backing unsuccessful tea party and Sarah Palin-backed candidate Sarah Steelman for Republican nominee for U.S. Senate from Missouri, is running ads opposing Iraq War veteran Tammy Duckworth, who is running as a Democrat in Illinois’ 8th Congressional District.

The super PAC reported contributions of $2.3 million in quarterly filings with the FEC released Monday. Of the total, $2 million came from Americans for Limited Government — a nonprofit that doesn’t reveal its donors.

Rachael Marcus contributed to this report.

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SOUTH JERSEYTed SiroisMark SullivanTom LarkinAnonymous Recent comment authors
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Mark Sullivan
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Mark Sullivan

Trump needs to conduct these activities because the entire MSM media, excluding Fox, is campaigning against him 24/7/365.

Didn’t Monica’s boyfriend’s wife and various criminal enterprises outspend Trump by almost 2-1?

CapitalistRoader
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CapitalistRoader

Why wouldn’t he get an early start on fund raising? Hillary outspent him two-to-one in 2016. The Dem’s are the party of big money. The President knows this and is attempting to get a jump on it. Of course the Dem candidate will outspend him in 2020 so it’s only rational that he starts fund raising now.

George Young
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George Young

Oh brother. We just 8 years of the Campaigner – in – Chief. Where was this journalistic rectal thermometer then. Just another article about 2000 words too long that merely takes another slap at Trump for something he far from initiated.

j stevenson
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j stevenson

The big difference between Trump and all the rest is his refusing to accept funds from lobbyists, so they don’t have the White House access they are used to. These are the donors who buy the presidency and are as pixxed off that he won the election as are the media and the Dems. Lobbyists have never been shut out of the WH and Trump has told them he is not for sale.

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Trump needs to be impeached and tossed in prison. Then have the key thrown away so he will never be free. Then he can see how it feels not to have freedom.

Mark Sullivan
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Mark Sullivan

Thank you for the usual insightful leftist low IQ Snowflake response.

barney
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hes not imprisoning them hes sending them back to their country chill tf out

SOUTH JERSEY
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SOUTH JERSEY

WHY DONT YOU HAVE FREEDOM?

Tom Larkin
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Tom Larkin

First, something positive. I was happy to learn of empirical information in article. BUT, the article was so slanted against President Trump as to be deemed fake news (“Perhaps Trump just lied.” (Two different issues)). The article mentions that President Trump raised over $67 million, but ended 2018 with $19 million. President Trump spent over $40 million 2016 and 2017. President Trump conducted 57 political rallies. The article notes the hats and T-shirts sold, but NEVER MENTIONS THE INCREASE IN THE NUMBER OF REPUBLICAN SENATORS during a mid-term election that lost the House and the number of political rallies in… Read more »

Ted Sirois
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Ted Sirois

At least Trump is getting donations from willing donors. Fresh from his first election, Obama used billions of our children’s tax dollars to save thousands of union jobs in the car industry and bailed out the banks and many Wall Street businesses. This secured his source of reelection funds for his reelection four years later.

South Jersey
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South Jersey

TRUMP 2020; IS AN AMAZINGLY SMART MAN! VERY ORIGINAL & CREATIVE. I AM HAPPY TO HAVE HIS AS POTUS.

SOUTH JERSEY
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SOUTH JERSEY

THIS ARTICLE WAS OBVIOUSLY WRITTEN BY, A TRUMP-HATE-GROUP. THAT FEELS; IT IS NOT NORMAL TO BE SUCCESSFUL WITH YOUR OWN BRAND NAME. WHEN, IF FACT, IT IS NORMAL! >>>>> THIS IS >>> FAKE NEWS!!! <<<< ie: A PACK-OF-LIES; SPUN INTO; DEFAMATION OF CHARACTER. FOR A SINISTER-AGENDA OF; FASCIST DEMOCRATIC SOCIALIST, COUP D'ETAT

David
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David

Are you on some kind of drugs? Writing in caps makes me think that you are grumpy old fart or a uneducated hillbilly.