Election 2010: Most expensive elections ever?
House and Senate candidates in this election cycle raised nearly $1.2 billion, ahead of the pace for contests in 2008. Republican Meg Whitman is pumping $104 million of her own money into her campaign for California governor.
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Instead, corporations are funneling their money to trade associations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce or other groups that can air election ads, often without having to disclose their donors.Skip to next paragraph
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The desire for anonymity may have gotten an extra push when Target Corp. faced a backlash for its $150,000 donation to a Minnesota political group that was running ads in support of conservative Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer.
What we will see is corporations not wanting to anger their shareholders, not wanting to anger their retail customer by getting involved in partisan elections," said Paul Ryan, a senior lawyer at the Campaign Legal Center. "Instead they will employ strategies to obscure the fact, or hide completely the fact that they are dumping money into politics by routing their money through groups like the Chamber of Commerce."
The Chamber plans to spend $70 million in elections this year. It has already devoted more than $5 million to advertising campaigns helping Republicans in Senate races in Massachusetts, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio and New Hampshire, and for Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas.
Last week, an anti-abortion group aired among the first ads to specifically call for the defeat of candidates. The radio ads were broadcast in Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania and targeted three Democratic House incumbents.
The Federal Election Commission has yet to write rules on how to apply the Supreme Court's ruling. Democrats in Congress have tried to pass legislation that would require groups that run ads to reveal their donors. The legislation has stalled in the Senate, but strategists in both parties and campaign finance lawyers say the effort may have given some potential corporate donors second thoughts.
"My guess is we're going to see more corporate money spent on elections," he said. "If it's successful and you don't see a lot of real pushback, then in 2012 you'll see even more of it. So this is a test election."
Since 2000, Republicans had relied on President George W. Bush's prodigious fundraising to keep the party well supplied with money. Now, however, the GOP lags behind the Democratic Party. That has created a web of outside groups, a shadow party of sorts weighing in with millions of dollars to help Republican candidates.