Memo: A $2 Billion Cycle for House and Senate Candidates

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To: Editorial Writers and Interested Journalists
From: Public Campaign Action Fund and Common Cause
Date: October 26, 2010

 

Subject: $2 billion

The Washington Post reported this morning that based on its own estimate of Senate races and a new projection from Public Campaign Action Fund regarding House races, congressional candidates will spend nearly $2 billion this election cycle—a record breaking statistic.

What this analysis suggests is that while much of the focus has been on who’s funding the secret donations to front groups this cycle—not enough attention has been focused on the impact of this spending on candidates’ fundraising.

Key points from the Washington Post and Public Campaign Action Fund analysis:

 

  • U.S. House candidates raised more than $921 million and spent more than $733 million through the third quarter of 2010; amounting to a 30 percent increase in fundraising and 54 percent increase in spending from 2008.
  • If 2010 House candidates continue the pace of fundraising and spending they, as a group, set in 2008, the projected total of 2010 fundraising would reach nearly $1.3 billion and spending would hit $1.4 billion—doubling what was spent and raised just a decade ago.
  • U.S. Senate candidates are on pace to raise a combined $550 million by Election Day. Outside non-party spending is expected to climb past $400 million.

You can see the full analysis at http://bit.ly/one-billion.

OUTSIDE SPENDING: WHAT IT MEANS FOR CANDIDATES--AND VOTERS

There’s no question that one of the dominant themes of the 2010 election is the impact of the front group spending on our elections. In some races, these attack ad campaigns are even eclipsing candidate spending (see this article in Missouri: http://bit.ly/aqtFAu).

Pundits and politicians have spent the better part of the last month arguing about the influence of these groups, but they’ve missed the larger picture: the personal impact all of this outside spending has on candidates and voters.

We don’t mean candidates cringing when they see a deceitful ad using an old grainy photograph. It’s not voters being annoyed by the unceasing slew of negative ads. These attack ad campaigns force candidates to spend all of their time raising money in order to respond and to control their own re-elections, giving them little time to connect with everyday voters.

Instead of attending town halls or debates, candidates have to go to fundraisers with wealthy donors or dial for dollars. When candidates are in a never-ending battle to raise campaign cash, the voters are the ones who lose.

And when these candidates become elected officials, they know who they are accountable too—the big donors that helped them get elected.

WHAT CONGRESS CAN DO: PASS FAIR ELECTIONS AND DISCLOSURE

Candidates for Congress don’t run for office because they want to raise money. They do it because they believe they have the best ideas to move our country forward, but this toxic pay-to-play system is corrupting the process. Members of Congress shouldn’t have to think about whether their next vote will affect their fundraising. They should be free to decide based on their conscience or constituents.

The Fair Elections Now Act would allow candidates to run competitive campaigns for office by relying on small donations from people back home. Faced with the threat of outside spending, candidates can go to their grassroots base for support. Donations of $100 or less are matched on a four-to-one basis. The Fair Elections Now Act has the broad, bipartisan, and cross-caucus support of 165 U.S. House members and 25 U.S. Senators.

Instead of whining or complaining about being outspend by faceless national groups, members of Congress need to take action. After Election Day, Congress should come back to Washington and pass the Fair Elections Now Act and whatever pieces of the DISCLOSE Act that are possible.

The Washington Post article mentioned is available here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/10/25/AR2010102506006.html

Learn more about the Fair Elections Now Act at www.fairelectionsnow.org.