November 8, 2010
Dueling Reports on Electoral Effect of Nonprofit Spending
The Campaign Finance Institute issued a report last week titled Non-Party Spending Doubled in 2010 But Did Not Dictate the Results. At the same time, Public Citizen issued a report titled Outside Job: Winning Candidates Enjoyed Advantange in Unregulated Third-Party Spending in 58 of 74 Party-Shifting Contests.
What accounts for the difference in these early views of non-party, nonprofit spending in the 2010 election? Both reports relied on independent expenditure and electioneering communications reports filed with the Federal Election Commission, although the Campaign Finance Institute used data through November 4th while Public Citizen used data through October 31st, and Public Citizen excluded expenditures by political committees that did not accept contributions of more than $5,000 from any given donor. The big difference between the reports is that while Public Citizen focused solely on non-party (i.e., nonprofit) spending, the Campaign Finance Institute also considered candidate receipts and party spending. This larger perspective led the Campaign Finance Institute to conclude that in many races differences in non-party spending were relatively small when compared to overall financial resources devoted to each candidate from all sources. Indeed, the Campaign Finance Institute went so far as to conclude:
"It appears as if the one set of candidates most helped by a balance non-party spending favoring their side were the Republican candidates who lost with 45% of the vote or more. Based on their own receipts ($931,000), these could well have been candidates who would have lost by much more in a normal election year. However, the Republican non-party groups had said they were interested in helping to 'expand the playing field,' and these figures (along with the nine undecided races) suggest that they did."
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