For the last two election cycles, spending by outside groups on top federal campaigns has exceeded the amount spent by candidates in their races, new data shows.
According to an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics, spending by outside groups has skyrocketed since the 2010 Citizens United decision, The Washington Post reported
In 2008, just four races had outside spending outstrip spending by candidates. In 2014, the figure stands at 36 federal races, with an average expenditure of $7.7 million more than the candidates spent, or a combined total of $278 million.
Spending is concentrated in races that are highly competitive, often considered toss-up or "lean" districts as described by the Cook Political Report.
"This isn't a surprise; of course groups want to invest in races that they can influence or win (although spending alone doesn't guarantee a win, of course). But it means that the messages that voters hear in those races — the mail, the TV spots, even the people knocking on doors — are more likely to be from a group with a specific, often narrow agenda rather than from the candidates themselves," the Post said.
The Post added that there's a danger that outside groups orchestrate campaigns entirely, in some cases allowing candidates to take a back seat in their own campaigns or possibly determining the balance of power in Congress.
"What happens when control of a branch of Congress is decided by outside groups — when clusters of candidates win thanks to a push from an outside group that then plans to hold the politicians accountable to their agenda?" the Post said.
"At some point, it seems, we'll see."
The New York Times reported
Monday that outside groups poured millions of dollars into the final days of the campaign with last-minute attack ads and telephone calls in a bid to sway voters going into Election Day.
The ads pushed outside spending to an average of $20 million every day last week, while spending on Senate races in October reached $200 million.
At the same time, a recent report by the Center for Responsive Politics found that total spending across all races in 2014 by candidates, parties, and outside groups will reach a record of nearly $4 billion
. Specifically, candidates and parties are expected to have spent $2.7 billion while total outside spending is estimated to come to $900 million.
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