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Center for Responsive Politics

Nonpartisan, independent and nonprofit, the Center for Responsive Politics is the nation's premier research group tracking money in U.S. politics and its effect on elections and public policy. OUR VISION is for Americans to be empowered by access to clear and unbiased information about money's role in politics and policy and to use that knowledge to strengthen our democracy. OUR MISSION is to produce and disseminate peerless data and analysis on money in politics to inform and engage Americans, champion transparency, and expose disproportionate or undue influence on public policy.

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Source: Group M

Campaign ad spending predicted to hit $10 billion by November 2020

Spending on broadcast and online advertising for next year's election is anticipated to crush the total for last year's midterm.

Group M, which describes itself as the world's biggest ad-buying business, predicts $10 billion will be spent on political ads for the 2020 election – a 15 percent boost above the 2018 total. Every dollar spent on television and social media, of course, is an additional dollar that candidates and political groups must successfully solicit from their allies. This ever-intensifying chase for cash is one of the many aspects of the campaign finance system that has "good government" advocates despondent.

In a report released Tuesday, Group M detailed how advertising money was spent in the last campaign with growth estimates for the next one.

It found that political advertising during an election year has a significant impact on overall ad growth. In 2018, the advertising industry grew 9.5 percent, and almost half that growth was due to political ads, Group M calculated. For the midterm election, $8.7 billion was spent on political ads. "It seems unlikely that political advertising won't be bigger in 2020 vs. 2018," the report concludes.

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2020 Democrats Making Good on Their ‘No Lobbyist Money’ Promise

The presidential candidates who say they won't take money from registered lobbyists have made good on their word and returned the contributions they've received so far.

In the first three months of the year, registered lobbyists contributed $40,100 to Democratic presidential aspirants (in amounts above $200, which require detailed disclosure), the Center for Responsive Politics reports. Three quarters of the cash went to Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., who announced last month that his campaign will no longer accept such gifts and returned $30,250 to 39 registered lobbyists.

Now the CRP reports that Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has refunded all $3,800 she's received, Sen. Kamala Harris has given back all $3,000, Sen. Cory Booker has given back all $1,500, Sen. Amy Klobuchar has refunded $500 and Beto O'Rourke has returned the single $250 check he received.

Neither Sen. Bernie Sanders nor Sen. Elizabeth Warren had received contributions from federally registered lobbyists by the end of March. Neither had a trio of second-tier candidates – Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Andrew Yang and Marianne Williamson – all of whom have vowed to forswear such giving.

Some candidates are welcoming lobbyist cash, however: Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has raised $13,900 from nine of them, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper $7,850 from six of them and former Rep. John Delaney $1,000 from two. (Julian Castro has not taken the no-lobbyist pledge but hasn't benefitted from their largesse yet.)

All the others in the field formally declared their candidacies after the end of March so haven't had to file their first campaign financial disclosure reports.

Chinese Firm Fined for Giving to a GOP Super PAC Also Helped Democrats

While a Chinese-owned company's $1.3 million in contributions to a pro-Jeb Bush presidential super PAC resulted in a record Federal Election Commission fine for illegal foreign interference, it was not the only money the business put into the 2016 election. American Pacific International Capital also gave smaller amounts to several state-level candidates and federal political committees supporting Democrats.

It gave $7,500, for example, to a liberal hybrid super PAC that sought to mobilize Asian American voters in support of Hillary Clinton, the Center for Responsive Politics reported.

Surprise! Candidates set spending records in 2018 races

It took just north of $2 million to win the average House race last year and $15.7 million to win a Senate seat – but that's nothing compared to the subset of eight victorious new senators, who spent an average of $23.8 million.

Those numbers, which predictably shattered previous records, headline new calculations by the Center for Responsive Politics for the first in a four-part series analyzing money-in-politics trends from the 2018 midterm.

The three biggest spenders all challenged incumbents. Only one of them won: Republican Rick Scott, who spent an all-time record $83.5 million (most of it the record-setting $63.5 million he gave himself) to edge incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson ($33 million spent) in Florida. Outside groups brought total spending on the contest above $209 million, CRP found, "blowing away the previous record-holder."

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