In the last full week before the election, outside spending groups have bombarded voters with a record $210 million in ads, direct mail and other political expenditures, and, as in weeks past, the vast majority of the funds went to support Republican candidates.
Since Sept. 7 -- when the FEC began requiring all groups to disclose independent expenditures, regardless of the content -- the rate of outside spending has ballooned, reaching a new high this week. A Sunlight analysis of Federal Election Commission records shows that organizations dropped $132.6 million to back Republicans in the period between Oct. 26 and Nov. 1, while just $76.4 went to help Democrats. That compares to $26 million for the second week of September.
The most noticeable gap in spending this week occurred in the presidential race, where Republican nominee Mitt Romney was backed with $65.3 million in independent expenditures, more than three times the $18.8 million in outside spending on behalf of President Barack Obama. The week's biggest spenders in the presidential race include the pro-Romney super PACs Restore Our Future and American Crossroads with $33.3 million total. Priorities USA Action, which supports Obama, spent $10.7 million.
American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, the super PAC and politial non-profit operated by Republican strategist Karl Rove, were once again two of the top spenders this week, putting a combined $35.7 million into the House, Senate and presidential races.
In the contest for control of the Senate, overall numbers favored GOP candidates, $33.8 million to $23.7 million. The hottest races continued to attract big independent expenditures:
- Virginia: $8.9 million
- Wisconsin: $8 million
- Indiana: $6.9 million
- Ohio: $5.6 million
- Arizona: $5.2 million
- Nevada: $3.8 million
- Massachusetts: $2.3 million
In House races, Democratic candidates had a slight outside money advantage over the past week with $33.8 million, compared to $33.5 million backing Republicans. A number of races that hadn't gotten much attention from outside spenders received a sudden surge of their cash:
- In Florida's 10th Congressional District, $3 million poured into a race that had previously only seen $1.3 million, according to Sunlight's Follow the Unlimited Money. The bulk of the cash came from Independence USA PAC, the group started by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and went to support Democrat Val Demings in her race against Republican Rep. Dan Webster. The district leans Republican, according to the Cook Political Report.
- Independence USA burst onto the scene in California's 35th Congressional District, dumping $2.7 million in expenditures, compared to the less than $200,000 that the contest had seen before Oct. 26. Two Democrats are facing off in the election; the super PAC is supporting State Senator Gloria Negrete McLeod against incumbent Rep. Joe Baca.
- Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC affiliated with former Republican Sen. Norm Coleman, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee contributed most of the $1.6 million that went into Arizona's 9th Congressional District. The race had previously drawn only $900,000 in outside spending. Democratic State Senator Kyrsten Sinema faces off against former Paradise Valley Mayor Vernon Parker for the open seat.