Outside Organizations – Many Relying on Anonymous Donors – Help Republicans Score Big Gains in Congress

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BY DAVE LEVINTHAL – WASHINGTON — The priciest midterm election in U.S. history saw a Republican tide sweep numerous Democrats out of office, as voters anxious about the state of the economy ousted more House incumbents from office than any time since 1948. While several money-in-politics axioms held true, money was not a panacea for embattled politicians.

In only about 85 percent of House races did the candidate who spent the most experience victory on Election Day, a relative low in recent years, according to a preliminary analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics. Candidates’ spending correlated to success in 29 out of 35 Senate races — or 83 percent — that had been called as of Thursday morning.


By comparison, in 2008, the biggest spender was victorious in 93 percent of House races and in 86 percent of Senate races. In 2006, top spenders won 94 percent of House races and 73 percent of Senate races. And in 2004, 98 percent of House seats went to candidates who spent the most, as did 88 percent of Senate seats.

Moreover, most self-financing candidates again faltered this cycle. And significant investments from outside groups helped elect more than 200 federal candidates. In two-thirds of races where outside groups spent at least some money on advertisements and other political communications, the dollars spent supporting the winner, coupled with amounts spent opposing the loser, exceeded dollars spent supporting the loser or attacking the winner, according to the Center’s research.

“Those that went to the polls Tuesday showed enormous dissatisfaction with the status quo and voted, once again, for change,” said Sheila Krumholz, the Center’s executive director. “The money changed too, surging as much as 40 percent over 2006 levels to our predicted $4 billion by cycle’s end. Despite the competitive political climate and the lowest House reelection rate in 60 years, however, the vast majority of incumbents and candidates who spent the most were still reelected.”

Read OpenSecrets.org’s comprehensive post-election report by clicking OpenSecrets.org.

The Center for Responsive Politics is the nation’s premier research group tracking money in federal politics and its effect on elections and public policy. The nonpartisan, nonprofit Center aims to create a more educated voter, an involved citizenry and a more responsive government. CRP’s award-winning website, OpenSecrets.org, is the most comprehensive resource for federal campaign contributions, lobbying data and analysis available anywhere. CRP relies on support from a combination of foundation grants, individual contributions and income earned from custom research and licensing data for commercial use. The Center accepts no contributions from businesses, labor unions or trade associations.