Georgia’s U.S. Senate race between Republican David Perdue and Democrat Michelle Nunn is flush with spending from nonprofit agencies that keep their donors anonymous, making it one of the most expensive contests of the midterm elections.
The emergence of 501(c4) nonprofits and 501(c6) trade groups as prolific spenders on television advertisements that support or oppose particular candidates can be tied to the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, which opened the door to a wave of corporate money influencing political campaigns.
For the most part, these groups can spend unlimited amounts of money while not being required to disclose their donors.
Spending by these “dark” money groups, which is outside of the fundraising activities of candidates’ own committees, accounts for 56 percent on nonparty-related campaign spending, or more than $88 million nationwide, in this year’s election, according to a report from the Brennan Center for Justice, a nonpartisan law and policy institute at the New York University School of Law.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is one of the biggest spenders in this category.
And there is evidence that the role “dark” money plays in this year’s elections is even more substantial than can be documented.
According to the report, “Our analysis does not include tens of millions of dollars spent on ads that are not required to be reported to the (Federal Election Commission), all of which is dark money, meaning the true portion of outside spending is higher.”
While anonymous donors and outside spending groups tend to favor Republicans, both parties have tapped these coffers to advance their candidates this election season.
“Single-candidate outside groups are active in every state in our sample,” the report finds. “And they accounted for approximately half of nonparty spending in Alaska and Kentucky, as well as 30 percent in Georgia.”
In Georgia’s Senate race, about $9 million in dark money has been spent in favor of Perdue, with just about $1 million going to Nunn, according to the report.
But it’s not just dark money that has all the influence.
When all outside spending on Senate races nationwide this year is taken into account, the biggest spenders are, by far, left-leaning: the Senate Majority PAC and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. These two organizations alone account for more than $50 million in spending on Senate races in nine states this year, including Georgia.
When both campaign and outside spending is taken into account, more than $44 million has been pumped into the state’s Senate race, according to data from the Federal Election Commission compiled by OpenSecrets.org, a project of the Center for Responsive Politics.
Overall, Nunn has raised more than $14 million for her campaign, while Perdue has raised about $11.7 million.
Meanwhile, Perdue is one of the largest self-funders of any candidate for national office. Perdue has pumped about $3.7 million of his own money into his campaign.