Midterm Issues: Part X – The tsunami of outside spending including “dark money”

As opposed to direct contributions to political campaigns (inside spending), outside spending for campaigns gets little attention. Outside spending is from groups which do not contribute funds to individual campaign committees, but rather spend their own monies directly to support or oppose specific candidates. Total outside spending on our US Senate race and the most contested six House races as reported through October 30 was over $42 million – and is still growing. Outside spending for the remaining safe six districts was $10.00 for each Democrat (from the Sierra Club PAC) except for Frank Pallone (CD 06) who received an additional $5,805 in support. What a difference a competitive race makes. 

Outside spending groups include some which generate “dark money” where the donor is not disclosed. These groups are growing in size, scope, and share of election spending with each election cycle. Total U.S. Outside spending so far amounts to $1.34 billion.  

Outside spenders, many of which generate “dark money” where the donor is not disclosed, include:

Super PAC: They are required to report their expenditures and to disclose their donor(s) who in some cases may be an extremely wealthy individual. For example Integrity SuperPAC spent $4,116,243 to oppose Menendez and Super PAC Patients for Affordable Drug Action spent $3,296,053 to support Menendez. 

PAC: They are required to to report their expenditures but not their donors. For example the National Republican Congressional Committee spent $1,458,956 to oppose KIm, and the End Citizens United spent $573,625 to oppose MacArthur. 

501(c): These are nonprofit, tax-exempt groups. They can engage in varying amounts of political activity, and they are not required to disclose their donors to the public. For example Heritage Action for America spent $130,851 to support Webber and Make the Road Action spent $8,575 to support Sherrill. 

527 They may not expressly advocate for specific candidates or coordinate with any candidate’s campaign, and many 527s are used to raise money to spend on issue advocacy and voter mobilization. For example 32BJ United American Dream spent $16,513 to support Malinowski.  


Outside funds spent which have supported Menendez and opposed Hugin total $11,048,509. Outside funds spent which have supported Hugin and opposed Menendez total $5,328,536. Total Outside funding: $16,377,045 – a net advantage to Menendez of +$5,719,973. 

However, the Menendez combined inside spending (direct contributions to his campaign) of $11,047,953 and outside spending of $11,048,509 totals $22,096,462. Whereas, the Hugin combined inside spending $27,706,652 plus outside spending of $5,328,536 totals more: $33,035,188. 

Senate Outside spending:

Candidate Supported Opposed All 2018 Total

(Supported and Opposed)

Hugin, Bob (R) $1,400 $10,220,366 $10,221,766
Menendez, Robert (D) $828,143 $5,327,136 $6,155,279


HOUSE DISTRICTS IN WHICH OUTSIDE MONEY FAVORED DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATES. Inside, direct spending appears underneath each district: 

CD 2: Outside Spending:

Candidate Supported Opposed All 2018 Total

(Supported and Opposed)

Van Drew, Jeff (D) $940,057 $0 $940,057
Grossman, Seth (R) $0 $39,917 $39,917

CD 2 Inside Spending: Van Drew: $1,477,917 and Grossman: $128,688.

CD 3 Outside Spending:

Candidate Supported Opposed All 2018 Total

(Supported and Opposed)

MacArthur, Thomas (R) $241,476 $6,096,197 $6,337,673
Kim, Andy (D) $187,408 $4,019,111 $4,206,519

CD 3 Inside Spending: MacArthur: $4,184,204 and Kim: $4,434,098.

CD 5 Outside Spending:

Candidate Supported Opposed All 2018 Total

(Supported and Opposed)

Gottheimer, Josh (D) $415,522 $0 $415,522
McCann, John (R) $8,142 $384,889 $39,303

CD 5 Inside  spending: Gottheimer: $1,613,539; McCann: $627,754.

CD 11 Outside Spending:

Candidate Supported Opposed All 2018 Total

(Supported and Opposed)

Sherrill, Mikie (D) $2,933,664 $0 $2,933,664
Webber, Jay (R) $217,692 $1,498,035 $1,715,727
Frelinghuysen, Rodney (R) $0 $1,342 $1,342

CD 11 Inside Spending: Sherrill: $5,852,394; Webber: $1,274,922. 


CD 4: Outside Spending: 

Candidate Supported Opposed All 2018 Total

(Supported and Opposed)

Smith, Chris (R) $16,001 $0 $16,001
Welle, Josh (D) $0 $6,001 $6,001

 CD 4 Inside Spending: Smith: $999,174; $1,432,767.

CD 7 Outside Spending: 

Candidate Supported Opposed All 2018 Total

(Supported and Opposed)

Lance, Leonard (R) $2,518,077 $2,848,658 $5,366,735
Malinowski, Tom (D) $944,365 $3,019,760 $3,964,125

CD 7 Inside Spending: Lance $2,030,509; Malinowski: $4,400,085.

What are we to do with our elections awash in money?

The Center for Responsive Politics forecasts that more than $5.2 billion will be spent this election cycle, making it the most expensive midterm election ever by a wide margin. We had hoped for filling the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat with a more liberal justice who might help reverse the Citizens decision. Instead, we got Neil Gorsuch. and later Brett Kavanaugh. Ending this tsunami of outside spending via the Supreme Court for the near future is a pipe dream.

Our inability to trace campaign donations to their source – the dark money issue – is the result of the lack of federal regulations to make disclosure mandatory. And such regulations are legal; the Court said as much in Citizens, with eight of nine justices agreeing on that point! The only thing standing in the way of transparency is congressional stonewalling. An article in VOX explains other more promising avenues for campaign finance reform.

While as of now Sherrill has spent $5.9 million, she has raised $7.5 million, more than any woman running in a House race. And bear in mind that in this final hectic period there could well be a substantial amount of additional outside expenditures some of which many not even be reported until after election day.

Prior issues are SALT (Part I), Healthcare (Part II), Climate Change (Part III), The Trump Factor (Part IV), Immigration (Part V), “Follow the Money” (Part VI), Gun Control, Festering and Frustrating (Part VII), Menendez has beliefs; Hugin has none (Part VIII), and Recent issues to sway voters and incentivize turn out (Part IX).

Comment (1)

  1. Ken Houghton

    The unilateral disarmament of the Andy Kims and Beto O’Rourkes of the House and Senate races is going to come back and bite their constituents in the arse.

    Tired of purity tests when running against Experienced Prostitutes.


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