Prepare for Attacks by Super PACs in 2014; Traditional NC Campaign Funding Marginalized

by johndavis, November 27, 2013

Prepare for Attacks by Super PACs in 2014; Traditional NC Campaign Funding Marginalized November 27, 2013        Vol. VI, No. 23          7:13 am In the 2013 governor’s race in Virginia, California billionaire Tom Steyer spent $8 million independently on attack ads against Republican nominee Ken Cuccinelli through his NextGen Climate Action Committee.  Steyer didn’t like Cuccinelli’s
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Prepare for Attacks by Super PACs in 2014; Traditional NC Campaign Funding Marginalized


November 27, 2013        Vol. VI, No. 23          7:13 am

In the 2013 governor’s race in Virginia, California billionaire Tom Steyer spent $8 million independently on attack ads against Republican nominee Ken Cuccinelli through his NextGen Climate Action Committee.  Steyer didn’t like Cuccinelli’s environmental record.

Billionaire New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg also weighed in against Cuccinelli with over $1.6 million in his USA PAC.  Bloomberg didn’t like Cuccinelli’s positions on gun control.

Cuccinelli raised about $20 million; Governor-Elect Democrat Terry McAuliffe $34 million.  To put Cuccinelli’s $20 million war chest in perspective, two billionaires spent nearly half that amount against him.  As a matter of fact, Steyer’s $8 million nearly matched the $8.5 million contributed to Cuccinelli by the Republican Governors Association.

Of course, there was outside spending for Cuccinelli as well.  Americans for Prosperity, funded by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, paid for a statewide get-out-the-vote effort on behalf of the GOP nominee.

That’s what we can expect in North Carolina in 2014.  Super PAC attacks, where one or two checks from out-of-state wealthy donors can marginalize the total given by all traditional in-state campaign funding sources.

North Carolina has 8 statewide races in 2014: 4 of 7 seats on the state Supreme Court, 3 of 15 Court of Appeals seats and U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan’s seat.  Americans for Prosperity is already busy in North Carolina running attack ads against Senator Hagan.  According to North Carolina FreeEnterprise Foundation’s 2014 Independent Expenditure Tracker, over $4 million has already been spent in the U.S. Senate race, $3.2 million (77%) having been spent against Hagan.

Most independent expenditure organizations spend almost all of the money on negative ads.  In 2012, $1.3 billion was spent independent of any campaign, with 77% spent on negative attacks.  Some, like Priorities USA Action, a Super PAC “Committed to the reelection of President Obama,” spent 100% of their funds ($65 million) on attack ads.

What is staggering is the ready availability of hundreds of millions of dollars.  It’s just too easy.  Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS spent $188.9 million in 2012.

Crossroads GPS Contributor notes:

  • 3 largest contributions: $22.5 million, $18 million and $10 million
  • 53 contributors that gave $1 million or more
  • Names of contributors are not required to be reported
  • Rove’s Super PAC American Crossroads spent another $117 during 2011/2012
  • 90% of money spent on negative attacks, most against President Obama

For emphasis: 3 individuals gave a combined total of $50 million to Karl Rove in 2012.

The political potential of independent expenditures was not fully appreciated until the 2004 race for the White House between GOP President George W. Bush and his opponent U.S. Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts.  On August 5, 2004, one week after Sen. Kerry was celebrated as the Democratic Party’s nominee for President of the United States, TV ads discrediting his Vietnam War record were aired by an independent group known as Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

By the time Election Day rolled around, $26 million had been spent independently attacking Kerry’s integrity; accusing him of lying and selling out his comrades later as an antiwar activist.  Those ads kept Kerry on the defensive the entire fall.  President George W. Bush won reelection with 50.7% of the popular vote, the narrowest win of any incumbent president in history.

Again, what is most significant about the Swift Boat Veterans $26 million is that one individual, billionaire Bob Perry from Houston, Texas, gave the group $4.4 million.  Perry gave $23.5 million in 2012 to Super PACs.

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