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Liberal Outside Groups are Spending Lots, Also

A lot of the focus on campaign spending during this electoral cycle has centered on outside conservative groups, partly because they are new and partly because they’ve announced they’ll raise and spend so much. Democratic-leaning independent groups, however, once dominated the game of using the tax code in novel ways to set up outside groups aiming to influence elections, and even this year, according to Felicia Sonmez at the Washington Post, they’re spending more money than their conservative equivalents thus far:

Democratic-leaning independent groups have spent about $3 million more than Republican-leaning groups in federal races this cycle to date, according to a Fix analysis of campaign finance data compiled by the Washington Post.

Groups contributing mainly to Democrats have spent a total of about $21.6 million this cycle, compared to $18.6 million spent by groups benefiting Republican candidates. The tallies include funds reported as of Aug. 29.

One caveat which Sonmez takes pains to note, however, is that these tallies don’t include spending on “issue ads” unless they occurred within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of a general election because these ads don’t need to be reported to the FEC in the same fashion. So that $4.1 million Americans for Prosperity ad buy targeting Democrats in 11 states for their votes on the stimulus package? Not included.

The same goes for a host of other influential ads which, through no fault of the Post’s, makes the newspaper’s otherwise excellent chart listing groups’ campaign spending a little misleading when it comes to drawing meaningful comparisons of total spending. It’s become so easy to produce “issue ads” that nonetheless communicate an implicit message to vote for or against a particular candidate that they’ve become the latest rage among outside groups seeking to avoid FEC oversight and the spending disclosure requirements that accompany it.

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