WaPo: Outside group spending didn’t have much impact

posted at 10:11 am on November 8, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

Remember all the hysteria about the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, in which politicians fretted that the wealthy would be able to buy elections through unlimited outside-group spending?  This election cycle provided a very good test for that doom-and-gloom scenario.  Over a billion dollars got dropped into this election cycle from outside groups on both sides, running ads and campaigning, usually against their foe more than for their own candidate.  Both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney embraced the outside group model and relied on their spending at strategic moments.

Did that pervert the election?  Not really, according to a new analysis by the Washington Post.  In fact, it didn’t have much impact at all, which turned out to be bad news for Republicans:

Record spending by independent groups, which in many ways defined how campaigns were waged this year, had no dis­cern­ible effect on the outcome of most races, according to an analysis by The Washington Post.

A clutch of billionaires and privately held corporations fueled more than $1 billion in spending by super PACs and nonprofits, unleashing a wave of attack ads un­rivaled in U.S. history. Yet Republican groups, which dominated their opponents, failed to achieve their two overarching goals: unseating President Obama and returning the Senate to GOP control.

In the Senate, Republicans lost ground, after pouring well over $100 million in outside money into seven races that went to Democrats. In the presidential race, GOP nominee Mitt Romney nearly matched Obama with the help of outside money, yet he lost decisively in the end.

Even in the House, which remains comfortably in Republican hands, GOP money groups struck out repeatedly in individual races they targeted, according to the Post analysis of data from the Center for Responsive Politics. In 24 of the most competitive House contests, Democratic candidates and their allies were outspent in the final months but pulled out victories anyway. That compares with eight competitive races in which Republicans were outspent and won.

Spending by outside groups, it turns out, was the dog that barked but did not bite. Obama and other Democrats had long made dire predictions about the potential impact of the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commissionwhich allowed corporations and unions to spend unlimited money on elections and created a new class of wealthy political groups.

On one hand, this is pretty good news for free speech — and, if one thinks about, redistributionism.  Obama wants to give the wealthy a haircut in order to improve the economy?  Let’s have elections every six months.  I’d bet that the one billion spent in this election cycle created more jobs per dollar than the Obama stimulus of 2009, and probably longer-lasting jobs, too.

However, all this does is prove the silliness of campaign-finance restrictions, on top of the regulation of political speech it represents.  The Post goes on to note, correctly, that most of this money on both sides only served to make races more negative, and forced candidates to do a lot more fundraising for their own coffers to fight back against attack ads.  That’s an almost comical demonstration of the absurdity of donation limits.

Had those limits been replaced with full and immediate disclosure requirements, which the Internet makes entirely possible, and tax deductions eliminated for all outside groups (and even the candidates and political parties), then those donors would have given the donations directly to the candidate and/or party.  That would have made the candidates and parties directly responsible for their own messaging, which would have limited the nonsense attacks during the campaign.

People could still form third-party groups if they desired, of course, but as this election shows, giving the money directly to the candidate would be much more efficient.  Some, like the Kochs, fund conservative groups already in order to fuel grassroots activism, and that would continue to be the case, but the rest of the nonsense would disappear quickly.  No one appreciates efficiency in the use of capital more than the people who created it in the first place.

Instead of undoing Citizens United, let’s undo campaign finance reform and return responsibility for campaign messaging to the candidates and their parties instead.

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Didn’t 0bama borrow money?

OmahaConservative on November 8, 2012 at 10:15 AM

Didn’t 0bama borrow money?

OmahaConservative on November 8, 2012 at 10:15 AM

From Bank of America, IIRC. So, odds on whether that “loan” ever gets paid back?

totherightofthem on November 8, 2012 at 10:21 AM

Why are you using Ed Koch’s picture?

patch on November 8, 2012 at 10:21 AM

I think a major problem is that most outside groups spend money on TV ads. Who watches commercials anymore? I DVR everything I want to watch and fast forward past all the commercials, including political ads.

If outside groups spend money, it ought to be for GOTV, not TV ads.

AngusMc on November 8, 2012 at 10:21 AM

Why are you using Ed Koch’s picture?

patch on November 8, 2012 at 10:21 AM

[facepalm]

The file said “koch”. I’ve changed it.

Ed Morrissey on November 8, 2012 at 10:24 AM

[facepalm]

The file said “koch”. I’ve changed it.

Ed Morrissey on November 8, 2012 at 10:24 AM

Thanks. Are you still in CA?

OmahaConservative on November 8, 2012 at 10:25 AM

[facepalm]

The file said “koch”. I’ve changed it.

Ed Morrissey on November 8, 2012 at 10:24 AM

LOL, it’s been a long week for all of us.

TXUS on November 8, 2012 at 10:26 AM

Ed Morrissey

We all got sore foreheads right now.

abobo on November 8, 2012 at 10:29 AM

Because it cost much less money to rig the vote counting machines.

Just a guess.

LoganSix on November 8, 2012 at 10:30 AM

That’s because there is no amount of money which will counter the media and Hollywood, which is the way most people get their news. And there’s no way you can explain the principles of our republic to people who have never learned them or the consequences of governance of men, not laws.

The living constitution thing has become truth and their history classes and culture tell them America is bad and its history an exercize in oppression and imperialism.

Thomas Jefferson owned slaves ergo anything he said or did was bad.

Portia46 on November 8, 2012 at 10:33 AM

Another reason why we lose: They’re grooming the battleground for next time shaping opinion about SuperPAC’s and outright lying about what Boehner is saying without being immediately challenged by anybody, and we’re navel gazing trying to figure out why we lost.

It’s non-stop war. They never stop burning our party to the ground and salting the earth. We stop and contemplate why that is while they never stop.

MarkT on November 8, 2012 at 10:33 AM

Off topic but speaking of spending!

Shy Guy on November 8, 2012 at 10:37 AM

Inside spending did not help Romney much either…
;-)

What was $$$ per vote that Romney spent versus McCain?

albill on November 8, 2012 at 10:41 AM

Did that pervert the election? Not really, according to a new analysis by the Washington Post.

Ed loves a good meme.

If Romney won, do you think WaPo would have written the same article?

Think, people.

faraway on November 8, 2012 at 10:41 AM

Outright stone-cold stupidity had the most impact on the election, most of it funneled toward the Ocoward.

Bishop on November 8, 2012 at 10:44 AM

A clutch of billionaires and privately held corporations fueled more than $1 billion in spending by super PACs and nonprofits,

Just proves a billion dollars spent putting lipstick on a RINO pig is not going to help getting it elected. Romney was Obama lite. That billion dollars would have gotten a hard hitting conservative governor elected over a failed POTUS worse than Jimmy Carter. The Pub establishment will never learn. Boehner and McConnell need to be replaced.

they lie on November 8, 2012 at 10:50 AM

If Romney won, do you think WaPo would have written the same article?

Think, people.

faraway on November 8, 2012 at 10:41 AM

If Romney won, it would be because sinister influences had guaranteed his election with contributions and PAC money.

On Hot Air’S favorite MSNBC show, Morning Joe, the guys were playing with the terrible condition of the Republican party like a cat with a cat nip ball.

The R’s did it to themselves.

The media had no part in it.

Then they slammed the ultra right talk shows and niche television shows which do not represent the mainstream. Right wing television personalities made millions, though, they said. No wonder the party is so messed up.

I wonder if they ever see that right wing folks are refugees from their own channel and the arcane insularity of the MSM?

IlikedAUH2O on November 8, 2012 at 10:55 AM

Not true, but i can see how wapo may want to promote that idea. With outside spending it was a draw, otherwise it would have been a massacre, especially defending the House.

runner on November 8, 2012 at 10:55 AM

It’s non-stop war. They never stop burning our party to the ground and salting the earth. We stop and contemplate why that is while they never stop.

MarkT on November 8, 2012 at 10:33 AM

There’s a lot of “nothing to fear” squishes selling out to democrats.

the_nile on November 8, 2012 at 11:01 AM

Charlie crist called Rubio a coconut…..how did that work out?

terryannonline on November 8, 2012 at 11:02 AM

Did all that money employ all that many people? I guess it depends on how many people major TV networks employ and how many more people they hired as a result. But considering that it doesn’t take a lot of labor power to air something someone else produces….I’m not sure if this was such a boon to the economy broadly. Hopefully some local TV stations were able to enrich themselves and avoid being swallowed up by big conglomerates. Other than that….yeah I don’t see it as a huge boon.

I do, however, take MASSIVE glee in seeing Karl Rove’s Super PAC be a total and utter failure. Maybe corporatism isn’t going to take over this country, maybe we are moving towards a sense that capital doesn’t always make right, and doesn’t always get what it wants. Capital backed Mitt Romney and capital lost.

libfreeordie on November 8, 2012 at 11:03 AM

The WaPo is simply incorrect. Romney might have lost, but he won independents and closed the gender gap a bit. So, the groups that were targeted. it made a difference with.

The problem is that the wrong groups were targeted.

The big problem with Romney’s strategy seems to be that he miscalculated how people with a job and/or many of Obama’s base who simply have no interest in working or getting better paying jobs, would respond to the state of the economy. Those with a job were won over by social issues, and the poor (or the “Middle Class,” as Obama calls them) were won over by promises of more free stuff. And by focusing on something they did not care about, he never got through to them, while Obama forced those people to fear Mitt Romney.

milcus on November 8, 2012 at 11:07 AM

You are not going to reach the 47% with SuperPAC money unless you give it to them directly and buy their vote.

You are not going to reach the 93% of blacks who have been brainwashed in racism their entire lives.

You are not going to reach the 48% of the faux Catholics who go against their churches teachings. The decline of Catholicism is a sad,sad story in this country. Of course, a large portion of the remaining Catholics are Hispanic.

You may be able to reach 50% of the Hispanic (70% voted Obama) vote with the right people and proper messaging. There is hope there.

You may also be able to reach 20-25% of the single white women with the right people and message.

We may be outnumbered now, but we can still change that before it gets out of hand. It will just take outreach and messaging. I think it will also take a purging of most of the current republican leadership. Boehner and Mitchell have got to go.

Rockshine on November 8, 2012 at 11:25 AM

The WaPo is simply incorrect. Romney might have lost, but he won independents and closed the gender gap a bit. So, the groups that were targeted. it made a difference with.
The problem is that the wrong groups were targeted.
The big problem with Romney’s strategy seems to be that he miscalculated how people with a job and/or many of Obama’s base who simply have no interest in working or getting better paying jobs, would respond to the state of the economy. Those with a job were won over by social issues, and the poor (or the “Middle Class,” as Obama calls them) were won over by promises of more free stuff. And by focusing on something they did not care about, he never got through to them, while Obama forced those people to fear Mitt Romney.
milcus on November 8, 2012 at 11:07 AM

You are correct. What I have found is that many poor,lower class and even middle-class do not aspire for a better life. Instead, they want successful and wealthy people to be brought down. As long as they have the basics and a few toys to occupy their time and for pleasure, Internet, cell phone, big screen, eat out,go to a movie, they are fine with were they are at.

Rockshine on November 8, 2012 at 11:35 AM

libfreeordie on November 8, 2012 at 11:03 AM

You are proud of the Dimocrats for not taking corporate money?

It would have been nice if O had taken the McCain Feingold dollars (like O promised) to keep the money influence down.

But the Dems need to keep their focus on union backers, environmentalists various parasites that feed on gov’t largess and the reliable money from completely unknown sources.

Don’t celebrate too much as Karl Rove and his PAC will just morph and be more effective next time.

IlikedAUH2O on November 8, 2012 at 12:11 PM

Rockshine on November 8, 2012 at 11:25 AM

Don’t listen to the idiots on FOX describing the natural fit of groups like Hispanics with the right wing.

They are supposed to be ambitious and more family oriented — that is true.

They also resent the Anglo culture and perhaps more troubling, find their skin tone to look more like the other Dem folks.

They are Catholic but support President Obama and the younger, more educated ones are highly secular and left in other areas. They like coolness and celebrities. They are being brainwashed into an entitled attitude with the pop culture and schools.

Unless we desert Arizona and practically open our borders, the Latinos are a tough sell. Just rolling over on hunting illegals will not do it. O was rotten in most ways but kept them! It was the other factors.

We need to take over the message in schools and entertainment fixtures in the Latino community.

And good luck with that.

IlikedAUH2O on November 8, 2012 at 12:23 PM

Has all the free advertising by the liberal media who shilled for Obama been factored in. It had to have a value of some sort.

iamsaved on November 8, 2012 at 1:43 PM

What about the left hand? Should we only be dazzled by the hand as shown to us?

Free half billion$ in campaigning at a minimum as President, maybe up to $2billion. In addition you have thousands of appointees.

Bottom Line from WaPo:

our guy won so outside money didn’t work…this time, cause you know your guy is guilty of using that. Next time though, it’s back on!!

John Kettlewell on November 8, 2012 at 2:02 PM

Hey Ed, how about some independent research and reporting on the voting machines? I’d like some reasurance that numbers of votes in = number of votes out. Then I can safely bemoan half the voters.

AnotherOpinion on November 8, 2012 at 3:28 PM

Oh, and show me where anyone spent money for an ad stitching together the many pictures of O bowing to foreign governments. If our side keeps leaving weapons on the ground, it is no wonder we lose with Romneycare.

AnotherOpinion on November 8, 2012 at 3:32 PM