Outside groups dominate 2010 campaign spending
Colorado’s Seventh Congressional District – a bellwether district in a swing state – leads the nation in spending on political ads by outside groups not required to disclose their donors.
A snarling dog rushes the front door, but GOP House challenger Ryan Frazier, campaigning house to house, is more concerned about defusing attack ads flooding the zone in the last hours of the 2010 race.
“I’m a military veteran, husband, and father of three; served five years on the city council; cofounded the High Point Academy,” he says. “And all those ads you’ve seen about me? None of them are true.”
Across town, incumbent Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D) has just won his fight to get an attack ad by an outside group – falsely charging that he favors giving Viagra to sex offenders – off the air. The ad was dropped, but it’s not clear whether voters were influenced by it.
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“Colorado is off the charts in terms of outside ads and money,” he says, before heading out door-to-door himself. “The amount of money spent is pretty unbelievable, and the ads are consistently false. It’s made it a very difficult campaign.”
It’s a complaint heard by candidates on both sides of the aisle across the nation this year. But Colorado’s Seventh Congressional District – a bellwether district in a swing state – leads the nation in spending on political ads by “dark” outside groups, not required to disclose their donors.
Colorado is the No. 1 destination for outside groups spending campaign funds with undisclosed donors, according to a new report by the Sunlight Foundation. Total undisclosed outside spending for this House race alone is nearly $3.5 million – in a district with just 287,402 registered voters.
Overall, outside groups have spent a record $455 million this campaign cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics in Washington. As much as $110 million of that spending is undisclosed, affecting 168 congressional races, according to the Sunlight Foundation.
The surge in outside spending marks a “dramatic change in the spending patterns as outside organizations have collectively dwarfed the spending by Republican and Democratic party committees, which have most often taken the lead in independent spending,” concludes the Sunlight Foundation report, released Oct. 28.
Unrelenting attack ads
In the Denver market, the attack ads are unrelenting.
On CBS4 Denver, one 15-minute segment broadcast during sports coverage featured a battery of attack ads on both sides of three hotly contested House races, as well as a Senate race and governor’s race that are both heading down to the wire.
“All these ads say is what’s wrong with the other guy,” says Tammie Neyman, a dietician in Denver. “It gets you to a point where you just don’t want to [even] vote.”
Many outside conservative groups are pouring funds in unlimited amounts into issue ads that support Frazier or attack Representative Perlmutter. And left-leaning groups are doing the reverse.
In all, outside conservative groups have spent $35,108 funding ads supporting Frazier and $635,049 attacking Perlmutter. Unions and center-left groups have spent $810,326 supporting Perlmutter and $574,176 attacking Frazier, according to the Sunlight Foundation.