Outside Spending Erodes House Democrats' Campaign Fundraising Advantage
Democratic Representative Dina Titus of Nevada has spent twice as much money as her Republican opponent in the Nov. 2 election and is still being outgunned.
Outside groups supporting former state Senator Joe Heck, the Republican challenger, have poured more money into the suburban Las Vegas district than any other House race, Federal Election Commission records show.
The organizations, such as Karl Rove’s American Crossroads, have helped Republican candidates fill in any financial gap between them and endangered Democratic incumbents. Between Sept. 1 and Oct. 20, Republican-leaning outside groups that aren’t limited in the amount of money they are allowed to spend on candidates paid out $118 million, while those backing Democrats spent $45 million.
“Outside groups are having a huge effect since money is the fuel that drives all of the media assault,” said Steffen Schmidt, a political science professor at Iowa State University in Ames.
Vice President Joe Biden expressed concern that the outside money, most of it from groups that don’t disclose their donors, could cost Democrats control of the House.
“I’ve never seen this before,” Biden said on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt.”
Titus, 60, won her first term in 2008 with 47 percent of the vote. She is considered one of the most endangered House Democratic incumbents by three Washington-based publications that rate congressional races, the Cook Political Report, Rothenberg Political Report and Congressional Quarterly.
Titus spent $2.3 million between Nov. 5, 2008, and Oct. 13, 2010. Heck had expenses of $935,871 between Oct. 1, 2009, and Oct. 13, 2010. Republican outside groups outspent Democratic organizations in the district, $3.5 million to $1.8 million, between Sept. 1 and Oct. 20.
“Who are these people? They’re anti-health care, anti-Wall Street reform, anti-energy,” Titus said. “We’re not just fighting against Joe Heck.”
Heck’s spokeswoman, Mari Nakashima, didn’t respond to several requests for comment.
In addition, the House Republican fundraising arm spent $1.1 million between Sept. 1 and Oct. 20 on the race; the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has made expenditures of $935,893 on Titus’ behalf during the same period.
With more money than her opponent, Titus went on the airwaves in an attempt to define Heck before he could raise enough money to answer back. The political advertisement’s kicker: “Senator Heck doesn’t get it. He’s not on our side.”
“We worked very hard to raise the money,” Titus said. “We wanted to go up on television as early as we could.”
The outside groups have answered for Heck.
“The groups’ influence to this point has been to fill in the gaps and carry underfunded Republican challengers,” said Evan Tracey, president of Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group of Arlington, Virginia, which tracks political ads.
In Virginia, Republican challenger Morgan Griffith has benefitted from $835,259 in spending from outside groups plus $613,668 from the National Republican Congressional Committee between Sept. 1 and Oct. 20. That’s helped him compete with Democratic incumbent Rick Boucher, whose expenditures are four times Griffith’s. Boucher spent $2.5 million between Nov. 5, 2008, and Oct. 13, 2010. Griffith reported expenditures of $568,801 between Jan. 1 and Oct. 13. Democratic groups paid out $190,010 to help Boucher between Sept. 1 and Oct. 20.
In Florida’s 8th District, which includes Walt Disney World, Republican groups spent $1.2 million between Sept. 1 and Oct. 20 on ads attacking Democratic Representative Alan Grayson, some also mentioning fellow Democratic freshman Suzanne Kosmas in an adjacent district.
The National Republican Congressional Committee spent another $593,230 between Sept. 1 and Oct. 20 to try to defeat Grayson. Democratic groups reported $105,000 in expenditures during the same period in Grayson’s favor. The DCCC has stayed out of the race.
Grayson has been a top target of Republicans, in part because of his penchant for inflammatory rhetoric. During debate last year on the health-care overhaul that Democrats eventually passed through Congress, he said in a House floor speech, “If you get sick, America, the Republican health-care plan is this: Die quickly.”
The beneficiary of Republican spending is former state Senator Daniel Webster, the Republican challenging Grayson. Grayson spent $5 million between Nov. 5, 2008, and Oct. 13, 2010; Webster spent $976,986 between April 1 and Oct. 13.
Like Titus, Grayson, 52, used his campaign funds to immediately attack Webster after the Florida’s Republican primary in August. One ad dubbed Webster, an opponent of abortion rights, as “Taliban Dan” for trying to “impose his radical fundamentalism on us.”
“It’s not that the money magically appears, it’s a reflection of support of what we’re doing,” Grayson said. “In the world that we live in, you need money to communicate.”
A spokesman for Webster, Brian Graham, said Grayson’s attack ads indicate how vulnerable the Democratic incumbent is.
“We might not have as many TV ads or fancy mailers, but we’ve got a lot of people out there working hard for us and getting our message out,” Graham said.
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