Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

April 7, 2014


Host: Ted Simons

Congressional Spending


  • The Arizona Republic reports that spending by outside groups on congressional campaigns in Arizona has tripled since a controversial supreme court ruling on campaign financing. Rebekah Sanders of the Arizona Republic will talk about her report.
Guests:
  • Rebekah Sanders - Journalist, The Arizona Republic
Category: Government   |   Keywords: government, congressional, spending, campaign, financing,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: The Arizona Republic reports spending on congressional races tripled following a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court. Here with more is Rebekah Sanders of the Arizona Republic. Thanks for joining us. Great work on this project. That was 2010 to 2012. From 2010 to now it's exploded, hasn't it?

Rebekah Sanders: That's right. It remains to be seen will this flood of money into congressional races from outside groups continue? We do have fewer competitive races than we had in 2012. But what's interesting is that up until today, the pace of spending has superseded any previous election cycle. So we could be in for a record year.

Ted Simons: I think we have a graphic here from 2008, 2010,2012 and to date in 2014. Goodness gracious, that is ridiculous.

Rebekah Sanders: That's the spending to date in each of those election years T. really shows that at least for this cycle it looks to be on track to eclipse any of the previous years.

Ted Simons: Who is spending this money?

Rebekah Sanders: We're talking about money that outside groups that are not affiliated with any of the candidates or their campaigns are spending on these elections. This doesn't include the millions that candidates raise and spend themselves every election. These are groups that usually have the kind of ideological bent or represent special interest groups, whether that's veterans or dentists or what have you. Even medical professionals, for instance, have supported some candidates in Arizona.

Ted Simons: It seems as though early on the big money groups, the ones making the most noise, conservative groups.

Rebekah Sanders: Nationally that is the case. Conservative groups have far outspent liberal ones, but interestingly, when I did the analysis of the spending here in Arizona congressional races they were nearly even. Slightly more on the conservative side. What's interesting is also we counted up the number of groups that have played in Arizona since 2010. More than 100. It's really mushroomed since the Supreme Court decisions loosened these rules.

Ted Simons: Again, these are groups made up mostly of anonymous donors. We really don't know who is behind these things.

Rebekah Sanders: Sure. It depends on the way that the group is created under which part of the tax code or part of the campaign finance rules. Super packs, those do have to disclose their donors. Can spend unlimited amounts and collect unlimited amounts. 501c4, which are the other main type of group, don't have to disclose their donors, so there's a question of anonymity, and is that good for the voter or not.

Ted Simons: You mentioned citizens United, from people corporations and unions, we recently had this discussion that looked at the over all number of donations and talk to us about this. The thinking is this latest decision might take some of the effect off of citizens United because it gets the money back into political campaigns.

Rebekah Sanders: We'll see what effect this Supreme Court decision that came down last week will have. It's called McKutcheon versus federal election commission. Essentially it struck down another of the campaign finance rules which limits the total donations that an individual could give to campaigns and party committees. Previously it was around $123,000 per election cycle. Now they can give as much as to as many candidates and party committees as they want so that might mean that candidates say, don't give to that outside group, give it directly to me, I can do a better job with it, maybe that will decrease the outside spending, or maybe donors will just be adding more zeros to their checks to both different entities.

Ted Simons: The water level will be rising for all ships I imagine here. As far as the information you got, the center for responsive politics. Talk about those folks.

Rebekah Sanders: This is a nonpartisan, nonprofit group in Washington D.C. which is one of the premier organizations that tracks this money in politics. We work with them frequently to help us understand and get the data on these campaigns and so they provided some of this data, especially on the to-date spending, which would have been much more difficult task if we had taken it from the FEC ourselves. We analyzed the data and came up with these trends.

Ted Simons: There are no Senate races this year, yet we saw the graph, it's ridiculous for 2014. Mostly conservative groups seem to be early spenders, but that race to replace Ed Pastore, you have Democrats fighting amongst themselves. I would imagine a lot of outside groups may be interested in that race.

Rebekah Sanders: That should be interesting. It's a democratic primary. Safe democratic seat. Really a Republican doesn't have a chance. We won't see Republican spending. What's going to happen potentially is outside groups that represent different demographics, different interests may play in here. For instance Rubin Gallego is an Iraq war veteran. There's probably going to be a veterans organization coming to back him. Mary Rose Wilcox might get a women's democratic group. Steve Gallardo may get an LGBT group backing him. We may see this kinds of proxy battle, these groups supporting candidates with that.

Ted Simons: What they are doing is donating money to get mostly television ads but ads in general out there. There is any research to show how effective these ads are? Because I know a lot of people the minute they see these things, especially later on in the election cycle, they are not only gone they look at the ad, I'm not going to trust that person, it could boomerang, couldn't it?

Rebekah Sanders: It's an open question there is research to show that just the volume of negative advertising that has really been raised in recent election has turned off a lot of people from politics. There's one string of thought that this may have an overall negative effect on turnout on people trusting and wanting to vote. But then again, some of these races have -- the tide has turned with infusions of money. Money talks sometimes.

Ted Simons: I was going to say if it doesn't work they wouldn't be spending the money. It does work. People watch ads and make the move. Great work. I assume this story is to be continued.

Rebekah Sanders: Absolutely. It's still early in the election cycle so we'll be watching it through November. To read the full story people can go to politics.azcentral.com and search.

Ted Simons: Thank you.

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