The good news is that the DNC raised a whopping $16 million in the month of September alone. The bad news is that the post-Citizens United political landscape is as ugly as promised for the interests of fair elections, giving Republicans a 7-to-1 advantage.
Interest groups are spending five times as much on the 2010 congressional elections as they did on the last midterms, and they are more secretive than ever about where that money is coming from.
The $80 million spent so far by groups outside the Democratic and Republican parties dwarfs the $16 million spent at this point for the 2006 midterms. In that election, the vast majority of money - more than 90 percent - was disclosed along with donors' identities. This year, that figure has fallen to less than half of the total, according to data analyzed by The Washington Post.
The trends amount to a spending frenzy conducted largely in the shadows.
The bulk of the money is being spent by conservatives, who have swamped their Democratic-aligned competition by 7 to 1 in recent weeks. The wave of spending is made possible in part by a series of Supreme Court rulings unleashing the ability of corporations and interest groups to spend money on politics. Conservative operatives also say they are riding the support of donors upset with Democratic policies they perceive as anti-business.
Right, the mass of Republican "donors" rising up in defense of corporate America. It's pure astroturf, as usual, a handful of incredibly rich individuals like the Koch brothers creating a pro-corporate "movement." The Post focuses on one group, the American Future Fund, which has spent $7 million for Republicans in both Senate and House races. Like the rest of these shadowy groups, the organization doesn't disclose its donors.
The Democrats still have the advantage with the real grassroots.
While the interest-group money has primarily helped Republicans, Democrats have proved better at raising money for the party itself and for individual candidates. Those donations must, by law, come from individuals and are limited in size. Much of the interest-group spending, by contrast, has been based on large contributions from well-heeled donors and corporations....
One reason Democrats have benefited less from interest-group spending may be the party's - and President Obama's - message against the role of moneyed interests in Washington. And in his 2008 campaign, Obama discouraged such independent interest groups on the left from forming.
Some Democratic groups have lowered their spending on election ads. The Internet-based advocacy group MoveOn.org will spend roughly the same amount it did in the 2006 midterms, said Executive Director Justin Ruben, but will concentrate on organizing supporters instead of trying to compete on the airwaves.
"We can't possibly match this spending dollar for dollar," Ruben said. "Turnout is big in a midterm, and the best way to affect turnout is person-to-person contact. These groups have a few millionaires, but they can't talk to that many people."
It takes a great deal of person-to-person contact to overcome the tidal wave of independent expenditure ads. With a 7-to-1 advantage in spending, the lopsided Republican messaging also contributes to media narratives that favor Republicans. Dems, including President Obama, need to face the fact that moneyed interests have largely taken over our elections and until we've got a Congress willing and able to act to counter that, we'll need to fight fire with fire. For the meantime, Dems need to take Rep. Peter DeFazio's example, and get as much free media as they can by shining a bright light into the shadows of these groups.