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Thursday
Nov082012

Senate, House Races Boosted by Outside Money Lose More Than Win

Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- If the super-rich tried to buy Senate and House seats in this election, they didn't have much luck, at least when it came to some of the most expensive U.S. congressional races.

Wealthy millionaires such as casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, Donald Trump and Dreamworks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg took advantage of the ability to contribute tens of thousands, even millions of dollars to congressional super PACs in 2012, with mixed results.

Of the 10 most expensive Senate races in the country, only three were won by the candidate who had the most well-heeled outside groups backing them, according to data from the Campaign Finance Institute analyzed by ABC News.

Preliminary results in the House seem to indicate no real advantage for the candidate with the outside money advantage.

Of the 46 races in 2012 where more than $2 million was spent, the candidate with the outside spending advantage lost 21 times and won 16 times, with nine races still outstanding by mid-afternoon Wednesday, according to the CFI data.

Take the Florida Senate race, which pitted incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson against Republican Rep. Connie Mack.

Super PACs supporting Mack spent $15 million backing his Senate bid, more than three times the spending by outside groups that supported winner Nelson. Taking all spending on the race into consideration -- candidate fundraising, party spending and outside groups -- Nelson was outspent by more than $4 million.

Mack lost the race despite the backing of several deep-pocketed Republican donors, including Adelson, who donated $2 million, and former managing general partner of the San Francisco Giants Peter Magowan, who donated $1,000 to a super PAC supporting Mack.

In both chambers, but especially the House, Democrats did more in 2012 to compete but not match the number of Republican races in which their candidate outspent their opponent.

The result might have been an effective "draw" in terms of how money affected some races, Michael Malbin of the non-partisan Campaign Finance Institute said.

"The last time the independent spending totals significantly favored the Republicans, this time there was more of a party balance," Malbin said.

Although the sheer amount of money that poured into each House race didn't come close to the amounts spent in the Senate, House candidates in some cases were effectively dwarfed by their opponents' outside money advantage.

Outside groups spent more than $5 million working to elect Illinois GOP Rep. Joe Walsh, compared with the $500,000 spent by opponent Tammy Duckworth's outside allies. Coupled with Walsh's campaign's fundraising, the added cash gave him a nearly $3 million advantage over Democrat Duckworth, who won comfortably.

In Colorado's sixth district, Republican Mike Coffman was outspent 7-to-1 by outside groups supporting Democrat Joe Miklosi, who lost the race despite $1.9 million spent on the effort by outside groups.

The amount of money spent did match the outcome of the race in at least three big races in the Senate, however.

Endangered Missouri Democrat Sen. Claire McCaskill outspent her opponent, embattled Rep. Todd Akin, by close to $1 million and eventually pulled out a win, although arguably more because of Akin's abortion comments than her own campaigning.

In this election, the Campaign Finance Institute's Malbin said, the money still mattered, but only to a point.

"Once you have substantial amounts of money on both sides and both candidates are well known in their districts," he said, "then the incremental effect of more money goes down."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Sep052012

Dems Punt on Plan to Stage DNC Without Corporate Money

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(CHARLOTTE, N.C.) -- For more than a year, the Democratic National Committee touted its "unprecedented" plan to prohibit corporate and lobbyist funding of the 2012 convention in Charlotte, but it found it just couldn't put on a show without the money.

The convention's host committee has acknowledged that it established a separate entity to help shoulder the costs of many of the convention activities this week. That entity, New American City, Inc., has accepted millions of dollars from companies that include Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and most prominently Duke Energy, the nation's largest electric utility, which has sponsored events all over town.

"What was declared was that the convention would be funded differently, and it has been," said Suzi Emmerling, a spokeswoman for the convention host committee.

The lobbyist and corporate money ban held firm for expenses such as designing the stage in the Time Warner Arena and the shuttling of delegates around Charlotte, Emmerling said. But other expenses -- welcome events, concerts, hospitality suites, and more -- are all being underwritten by corporate and union backers.

Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers oversaw the host committee effort, and his company has emerged as one of the biggest financial backers of the three-day event. Neither the company nor the host committee will reveal how much Duke gave, but the number is sizable.

Emmerling said a decision was made by host committee officials to withhold those details until they become public in October, when the committee files its financial reports with federal officials. She could not provide a reason for why dollar amounts from each corporate donor would, for now, remain secret.

"That was a mutual decision between many parties," she said.

Duke Energy spokesman Thomas Williams told ABC News his company committed $10 million before Charlotte was selected as the host city and offered up a $10 million line of credit. Rogers himself gave $100,000. How much more, they will not say.

It has also helped to pay for events to entertain the city's Democratic guests -- a concert with singer John Legend, a forum featuring former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and a party at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

As for the reasons behind Duke Energy's donations, Williams points to community boosterism -- Rogers' desire to see the Charlotte-based company promote its home city on a national stage.

Experts who have studied the influence of money on the political process have a different theory as to why corporations such as Duke Energy invest so heavily.

"What you are seeing are companies demonstrating their loyalty, their willingness to play the game," said Lawrence Lessig, a Harvard Law professor who authored the book Republic, Lost. How Money Corrupts Congress.

"It's all about business," he said. "It's about building relationships that businesses need in a world where the government is so deeply enmeshed in giving privileges or in enabling government spending or regulating the ways it affects the life and death of these businesses."

Duke Energy faces an array of high-stakes issues in Washington.

Duke received more than $200 million in federal stimulus funds prior to the Charlotte announcement. While Duke was in the midst of committing its funds, federal regulators were reviewing a major merger it was undertaking with a Florida power company -- a merger that has now been approved. Still to be determined -- whether the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will extend the license for a nuclear plant in Florida.

Dozens of more granular issues are under consideration by Congress at any given time. Duke Energy has spent in excess of $5 million on federal lobbying in each of the past four years, and is on pace to spend even more money this year.

Jack Abramoff, one of the most powerful lobbyists in Washington before he was convicted on bribery-related charges in 2006, told ABC News that major companies see the conventions as an enormous opportunity to wine and dine public officials.

"They're people who want something back," said Abramoff, who has championed reform since being released from prison. "They're doing it because they have an agenda."

Williams confirmed that Duke Energy's lobbyists have been having an extremely busy work week.

"I know they're here and going to lots of parties," he said.

But he disputes the idea that the company's decision to help underwrite the Charlotte convention was in any way motivated by a desire to sway the actions of elected officials.

"It's not about trying to curry special favor," he said. "We win whenever Charlotte wins. We are a civic booster, we are expected to take a role in these civic efforts. We have in the past and we will in the future."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio