Independent Spending Dominated the Closest House, Senate Races in 2016

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The Campaign Finance Institute today released six tables comparing candidates’ receipts to independent spending in the most competitive Senate and House races of 2016. As several of the tables show in summary form (Tables 3-6), candidates tend to raise more money as their races become more competitive. But in the most competitive ones, independent spending by party, quasi-party and non-party committees this year has far outstripped the spending by candidates.

Table 1 covering all Senate races, lists the candidates’ receipts through pre-election disclosure reports alongside summary information for all independent spending through the election. The top race for spending in 2016 was the one in Pennsylvania between incumbent Sen. Patrick Toomey against Kathleen McGinty. Independent spending in that race alone topped $116 million – more than triple the amount raised by the candidates themselves. Seven other Senate races also saw independent spending above the $40 million mark – NV, NH, NC, OH, MO, IN, and FL (see Table 1). In most of these cases, the independent spending was at least double the money raised by the candidates. Subdividing the independent spending showed that there was rough parity between formal party organizations and the four quasi-party Super PACs1 on the one hand, and non-party organizations on the other.

In House contests 40 different districts saw independent spending of at least $1 million (see Table 2). In twenty of the top twenty-two races with $5 million or more of independent spending, that spending exceeded the candidates’ receipts. Relatively speaking, the party and quasi-party committees spent less money on House elections than did non-party organizations.

Tables:

Table 1: List of 2016 Senate General Election Races Ranked by Total Amount of Independent Spending

Table 2: List of 2016 House General Election Races Ranked by Total Amount of Independent Spending

Table 3: Summary Table – 2016 House Incumbent/Challenger Races, Candidates’ Receipts and Outside Spending Grouped by Election Outcome

Table 4: Summary Table – 2016 House Open Seat Candidates’ Receipts and Independent Spending Grouped by Election Outcome

Table 5: Summary Table – 2016 Senate Incumbent/Challenger Races, Candidates’ Receipts and Independent Spending Grouped by Election Outcome

Table 6: Summary Table – 2016 Senate Open Seat Candidates’ Receipts and Independent Spending Grouped by Election Outcome

1The four Super PACs are House Majority PAC (Dem), Senate Majority PAC (Dem), Congressional Leadership Fund (Rep), and Senate Leadership Fund (Rep).

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