Despite their funding deluge from wealthy donors, Republicans failed to overwhelm US President Barack Obama and Democrats at the ballot box. So was throwing all that money at the election worth it?
Obama was handily re-elected, Democrats added two more seats to their majority in the Senate and they cut into the Republican lead in the House of Representatives.
There is no two ways about it: That spelled bad news for Karl Rove, former US president George W. Bush’s then-strategist and a party luminary who raised huge money for Republican efforts across the US this year.
His two groups, super political action committee American Crossroads and its general interest group cousin Crossroads GPS, funneled at least US$176 million of donor money into anti-Obama advertising and Republican candidates, who lost en masse on Tuesday.
Some reports put the dollar figure above US$300 million.
Citizens United unleashed a torrent of funds from corporations and wealthy individuals — on both sides of the political fence.
The Sunlight Foundation, which advocates greater transparency in government and elections, estimated that outside groups spent a total of more than US$1.3 billion in independent expenditures to influence the outcome of this year’s races.
In the case of a public policy advocacy group like Crossroads GPS, spending must be reported, but the donor information can be kept confidential, allowing billionaire conservatives to spend sky-high sums without being identified.
However, of the 14 races targeted by American Crossroads, just three were won by Republicans, according to an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics, a group that publishes election expenses. Crossroads GPS fared only slightly better; the group was seven-for-24 in its races.
Factors well beyond money helped explain the outcomes in multiple races, but progressive groups had feared that wealthy conservatives’ blank checks would swamp less heavily invested liberal candidates running in smaller, out-of-the-way areas.
Crossroads sees the glass half full. Crossroads communications director Jonathan Collegio said the group helped offset the fundraising juggernaut that was the Obama campaign, which spent US$541 million compared with the Romney campaign’s US$336 million.
“Crossroads played a critical role of balancing out those efforts and had we not been there, it’s safe to say that the outcome would have been considerably worse,” Collegio said.