Money and Democracy

Published — October 14, 2010 Updated — May 19, 2014 at 12:19 pm ET

Republican allies pour money into ads targeting 50-60 House races


Four Republican-allied groups are targeting between 50 and 60 House races in a new coordinated round of hard-hitting television ads.

The groups collaborating to spend an estimated $50 million on House races in the last weeks before election day are American Crossroads and its affiliate, Crossroads GPS; the American Action Network; and the Commission on Hope, Growth and Opportunity, top officials with two of the organizations told the Center for Public Integrity.

“There are at least 50 races in which there are significant efforts to make sure that our candidates are not at a fundraising disadvantage,” former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman, now the chief executive of the American Action Network, told the Center. Coleman’s comments are the first to quantify the breadth of the new spending spree by Republican allies

In addition to the $50 million collaboration, several other GOP-allied groups this month are spending millions more with a focus on at least a couple dozen hotly contested House races, say analysts and sources. Those groups include Americans for Prosperity, the American Future Fund, Americans for Job Security, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

“Surge strategy” aims to reclaim House

The new $50 million drive, dubbed the “House Surge Strategy,” is aimed principally at improving the chances of Republicans winning control of the House by running ads in districts where Democratic candidates have raised more than their GOP counterparts.

Coleman’s group, which has launched new ads that will run in 22 districts, will spend about one-third of the $50 million planned for the late ad blitz. The expanded advertising drive comes amid the groups’ growing confidence that about two dozen House seats are now “off the board” and all but certain to go Republican, he said.

Overall, Coleman’s group is on track to spend about $25 million on ads to help a few dozen Senate and House candidates, according to fundraising sources.

Further, the Commission on Hope, Growth and Opportunity, which launched its first ads in late September for some 15 House districts, plans to expand that effort to a total of 25 races in coming days, sources familiar with the plan told the Center. The commission is well on its way to raising $25 million for its operations since it was created this summer by GOP strategist and lobbyist Scott Reed.

American Crossroads contributes $10 million

The new $50 million House drive includes a $10 million mix of House ads and get out the vote efforts in 15 to 20 districts that will be paid for by American Crossroads and its affiliate, Crossroads GPS, according to Steven Law, president of the two groups.

The latest blitz will include $2 million of new ads that running today and Friday in House districts in several states such as California, Florida, Hawaii, and New York, Law told the Center.

American Crossroads and its affiliate this week exceeded by $4 million their target of hauling in $52 million for election drives, Law said. Until now, the two groups had focused on helping Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate in key states such as Colorado, Ohio and Nevada.

Buoyed by that success, the two groups now aim to raise $65 million for their combined advertising and get out the vote efforts by election day, Law said. On Sept. 22, American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS hosted a luncheon at the upscale Willard Hotel, where Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie – the two GOP stars who helped raise millions of dollars for both groups – pitched their plans to Washington lobbyists. The session was “very productive,” Law told the Center.

Chamber opens Its checkbook

Still other pro-Republican groups are ramping up spending on House ads to put their candidates on a stronger footing.

Last week, the Chamber of Commerce, for instance, spent about $9.3 million on ads in a few days, divided between helping Republican candidates in 22 House races and several Senate ones. The Chamber has said it will spend a total of $75 million this year to help dozens of House and Senate candidates, and it still has tens of millions to go to reach that target.

Most of the groups running the ads have benefitted financially from a controversial U.S. Supreme Court decision early this year in Citizens United vs. the FEC. In a 5-4 ruling, the high court overturned decades of campaign finance rules by giving the green light to unlimited spending by corporations and unions for ads and other campaign activities.

Several GOP-allied groups have hauled in tens of millions of dollars in anonymous corporate contributions by obtaining 501© (4) nonprofit status from the Internal Revenue Service, a designation that does not require them to disclose their donors. The IRS does require that such groups spend the majority of their funds on non-political activities which often includes grassroots lobbying on legislative issues.

The first report of the Republican groups’ $50 million drive was published yesterday in The Wall Street Journal.

CORRECTION — In a previous version of this story, we said that former Sen. Norm Coleman’s group was going to spend about $25 million on a few dozen ads for House and Senate races. The group plans to spend that amount on a few dozen House and Senate races.

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