- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Republicans put their checkbooks to work in the 2014 midterms, out-raising and outspending Democrats in both Senate and House elections.

GOP Senate candidates out-raised their Democratic rivals by roughly $18 million and outspent them by $15 million, but Democrats had far fewer dogs in the fight, with just 58 candidates compared to 137 Republican hopefuls.

House Republican candidates raised over $500 million and spent almost $450 million in the current election cycle, with most of the money coming in from individual donors. Democrats seeking House seats raised just over $400 million and spent less than $350 million.

But in several of the fall’s hottest races, the real news was how the candidates’ war chests were dwarfed by the sums raised and spent by outside groups hoping to influence state races.

The 2014 midterms did set one dubious record: the first congressional races where total spending — from the candidates, the campaigns and outside groups — topped $100 million. According to the Center for Responsive Politics’ OpenSecrets.org website, which relied on Federal Election Commission data, the race between North Carolina Democratic incumbent Sen. Kay R. Hagan and Republican challenger Thom Tillis had already hit $111 million a day before the vote.

A second race, between Colorado Democratic Sen. Mark Udall and GOP challenger Rep. Cory Gardner, cost just shy of $100 million and was almost certain to exceed that when all the donor reports are in.

The Hagan-Tillis race already has exceeded the previous record — the 2012 Virginia Senate race between Democrat Sen. Tim Kaine and Republican former Sen. George Allen — by nearly $25 million. Through mid-October, the amount spent by outside groups was more than double what Ms. Hagan and Mr. Tillis had raised.

The Kentucky Senate battle between GOP Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes proved an expensive affair, another of the budget-busting campaigns in the race for control of the chamber.

Together, the two candidates raised and spent roughly $50 million, with money continuing to pour in at the last minute.

In fact, Mr. McConnell contributed $1.8 million to his own campaign on Oct. 22.

Although Ms. Grimes shattered records for Democratic fundraising in Kentucky, bringing in roughly $17 million with the help of top Democrats such as Hillary Rodham Clinton, Mr. McConnell still accounted for the bulk of the money, raising $11 million more and spending $10 million more than Ms. Grimes.

The Center for Responsive Politics predicts that disclosures still to come from outside spending groups will inch the 2014 election cycle total just past the 2010 tally of $3.63 billion. Far more money is raised and spent in presidential election years such as 2012.

However, outside money has played a much larger role in this election cycle after the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United, which lifted many of the restrictions for political giving by corporations and labor unions.

In 2010, disclosed outside spending totaled $309 million, about 8.5 percent of the total spent during the cycle, but so far in 2014 outside groups have spent $480 million, a 66 percent increase, which accounts for 13 percent of the total spent in this cycle, according to CRP.

The top single donor: liberal environmentalist billionaire Tom Steyer, who spent $73.7 million in a bid to boost a number of Senate Democratic candidates.

This is also the first cycle where the number of individual donors giving $200 or more to candidates has decreased since the last cycle. The number rose from 275,013 donors in 1990 to 817,464 in 2010, just before Citizens United. But just 666,773 individual donors were listed as contributing to candidates in 2014.

CRP also predicts that Republican groups will spend about $1.75 billion in the election compared to Democrats’ $1.64 billion.

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