Combined spending by super PACS and so-called “dark money” organizations that can hide financial sources is heading toward shattering all records set for outside spending for an election cycle in 2016, according to a new report.
And the groups set up to support Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio are the most active of all the super PACs and dark money groups in the country this year, according to the report today by The Center for Responsive Politics, better known as its internet portal OpenSecrets.org.
The Washington-based, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that tracks campaign finances, is reporting today the total of outside money spent on campaigns has reached $660 million so far this year. That compares with $289 million such groups spent on electioneering by the end of August in the 2012 campaign.
“Super PACs have led the charge, breaking the half-a-billion dollar mark in spending and making up about 80 percent of total outside spending,” writes by Soo Rin Kim, author of the report, which is a joint effort of the Weslyan Media Project and the Center for Responsive Politics.
This year’s spending includes $529 million from so-called “super” political action committees, allowed to advocate or oppose candidates since the 2010 Citizens United decision; as well as millions of dollars from scores of dark money organizations. various 501(c) committees, parties, corporations, and others.
By this time in 2012, super PACs had spent just $177 million, according to OpenSecrets.org.
That means America can expect a lot, lot more during the fall campaign, the report advises.
“And by the end of the 2012 contest, that $177 million had skyrocketed to $609 million, so expect the groups to burn through much more cash by the time voters cast their ballots this November,” Kim writes.
In 2012, outside spending reached $945 million by election day, according to OpenSecrets.org. In 2014, it reached $507 million.
Bush’s “Right To Rise USA” has spent $86.8 million. Rubio’s “Conservative Solutions” PAC has spent $55.4 million, OpenSecrets.org reports. The next few big super PACS are the Democratic-aiming “Priorities USA” ($51 million;) the Republican-aiming “Get Our Jobs Back” ($50 million;) the “Democratic Senate Majority” PAC ($23.5 million;) and the Republican-aiming “Freedom Partners Action Fund” ($22.4 million.)
The leading dark money organizations are the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which spent $20.4 million, and the AFSCME PAC ($9.5 million,) according to OpenSecrets.org.
Perhaps ironically, “End Citizens United” PAC (not a Super PAC, but a standard committee required to report donations) has spent $4.7 million opposing four Republicans. In an email to FloridaPolitics.com, representatives of the group say its goal is to overturn Citizens United and end Super PACs and the use of dark money. As a regular PAC “End Citizens United” operates under the rules on contribution limits, and reports an average donation of about $13.
Almost $400 million has been spent on the presidential race, but tens of millions of dollars have been spent in individual U.S. Senate and congressional campaigns.
Florida’s U.S. Senate races, which just concluded their primaries Tuesday, was only the nation’s sixth-most attractive race to super PACs and dark money this year, with just over $6 million in outside money. That’s well behind what was spent on Senate races in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere. But that’s likely to change now that Republican Rubio and Democratic state Rep. Patrick Murphy are heading for an epic November showdown over Rubio’s U.S. Senate seat, seen as critical to both parties’ desires to control the Senate.
OpenSecrets.org reported two other Florida races, Florida’s Congressional Districts 2 and 18, where outside money has topped $1 million in this cycle.