Democrats' Election 2010 lament: we are being outspent 5 to 1

A disproportionate amount of the 'secret money' being contributed to political campaigns in Election 2010 is going to Republicans, says Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rep. Chris Van Hollen.

Independent campaign groups allied with Republicans are giving five times as much money to GOP candidates as Democratic candidates are getting from groups that support their side

That is the assessment of Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. The DCCC’s charge is to help elect Democratic House candidates.

Speaking at a Monitor-sponsored breakfast for reporters on Thursday, Van Hollen said, “The amount of money being spent by the Republican-allied groups and the special interests is huge. As of right now in House races, I believe it is at least about a five to one.”

The comparison included donations by labor unions that usually favor Democrats. “When I said it was at least a five to one, I was taking into account organizations like AFSCME, or SEIU,” Mr. Van Hollen said, referring to two major labor unions that are major Democratic Party boosters.

The DCCC Chair did not provide specific dollar figures for his claim and admitted the data on independent group giving is subject to change. “The figures change every day. We may see [an advertising] buy today or tomorrow that changes those numbers altogether. But the fact of the matter is you are seeing a huge amount of the secret money coming down on the Republican side,” Van Hollen said.

The spending spree by outside groups was set off by a January Supreme Court decision. The Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision allowed corporate and union funds to be spent right up until election day on issue ads and ads that were critical of candidates. As a result, nonprofit corporations have emerged as a way for donors to help candidates without the identity of individual donors being made public. Perhaps the two best-known such groups – American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS – were founded by Republican strategists Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie.

Democrats have made spending by the GOP-leaning groups an issue in the 2010 campaign. “These interests, they are out to buy a Congress that will do their bidding and the stakes are very high,” Van Hollen told reporters at the breakfast.

There are signs the issue is getting some traction with voters, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll. NBC’s political blog First Read notes that "74 percent of those surveyed say it is a concern that outside groups have their own agenda and care about electing or defeating candidates based on their issues. And 72 percent say it is a concern that the groups don’t have to disclose who is contributing to them.”

But the NBC political team also notes that “our pollsters say that the White House/Dem campaign against these outside groups hasn’t changed the overall dynamics of this election.” That dynamic has independent political analysts predicting Democrats will lose control of the House.

Even Rep. Van Hollen, whose job requires a continually hopeful attitude, admitted at the start of the breakfast that, “This is going to be a very challenging cycle for Democrats.”

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