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Outside, Super PAC Spending Tops Candidate Spending in 14 Critical ‘Tossup’ House and Senate Races

Oct. 23, 2018

Outside, Super PAC Spending Tops Candidate Spending in 14 Critical ‘Tossup’ House and Senate Races

Ahead of 2018 Midterms, Outside Spending Dominates Battleground House and Senate Races

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Political spending by outside groups is drowning candidate spending in many of the most hotly contested U.S. House and Senate races of the 2018 midterm elections, according to a new report (PDF) by Public Citizen. In 14 races rated as ‘tossup’ by the Cook Political Report, outside spending, not including party spending, even exceeds the candidates’ own spending.

The flow of money to these ultra-tight races highlights how the vast majority of outside political spending tends to flow to the most competitive races, magnifying outside money’s impact. Among the 81 most competitive races – those ranked ‘tossup,’ ‘lean Democratic’ or ‘lean Republican’ – 17 have now seen outside spending exceed candidate spending as of this week.

In total, nearly $715 million in outside spending has poured into this year’s elections, with $421.5 million, about 59 percent of total outside spending, spent on just 39 races rated as ‘toss up’ by the Cook Political Report. Specifically, an additional $142 million went to the 42 races that ‘lean Democrat’ or ‘lean GOP.’

With two weeks still to go until election night, outside spending already has reached record levels for a midterm election, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Outside spending hit $567 million in 2014, $310 million in 2010 and $70 million in 2006.

Breaking another record, outside spending, including some party spending, exceeds candidates’ own spending in 31 races, the highest number for a midterm election, according to the group’s data.

“This is the world Citizens United made,” said Public Citizen President Robert Weissman. “Outside spending is dominating the close election races, empowering the superrich and drowning out the voices of regular voters and the candidates themselves. This is not what democracy looks like, but fixing this problem will require overturning Citizens United.”

Among the individual Senate races, where outside spending exceeded candidate spending, the percentage of outside spending compared to candidate spending was:

  1. West Virginia – 161 percent
  2. Missouri – 155 percent
  3. Nevada – 148 percent
  4. Indiana – 122 percent
  5. Tennessee – 118 percent
  6. Arizona – 111 percent

All but West Virginia were listed as ‘tossup’ by the Cook Political Report.

In the battle for the House, the following 10 districts had outside spending percentages of:

  1. Minnesota 8th – 200 percent
  2. New York 22nd – 158 percent
  3. Colorado 6th – 158 percent
  4. Kansas 2nd – 155 percent
  5. Ohio 1st – 130 percent
  6. Maine 2nd – 128 percent
  7. California 25th – 116 percent
  8. Virginia 7th – 116 percent
  9. New Jersey 3rd – 108 percent
  10. Minnesota 1st – 101 percent
  11. New Jersey 7th – 100 percent

All but Minnesota’s 8th and Colorado’s 6th congressional district races were listed as ‘tossup.’

For more details, read the full report (PDF).