Outside spending eclipses all past midterms

The Morning Line

Today in the Morning Line:

  • Outside money breaks record
  • Where’s the money going?
  • North Carolina might be election night’s Rosetta Stone
  • Obama to preside before UN Security Council
  • Lois Lerner breaks her silence

The Outsiders: Back in April, we wrote that outside spending was on a record-breaking pace. Well, on this first day of fall — and with 43 days still to go until Election Day — outside spending has now surpassed the mark for most money ever spent in a midterm election. In fact, the $228 million (and climbing) spent by outside interest groups is not only the most ever spent in a midterm, but it’s also more spent in any election except the 2012 presidential election, according to Federal Election Commission data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. The fact is: this is a whole new world. There should be a red line drawn on anyone’s timeline when reporting on election spending to signify Jan. 21, 2010, the date the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling was handed down, opening up unlimited money to flow into elections from unions and corporations.

Outside spending in federal campaigns

Image by Domenico Montanaro

Image by Domenico Montanaro

So, where’s the money being spent? Carolina on my mind…:

Most of that money is being funneled into key Senate races that will determine control of the U.S. Senate. Now that we’re past primary season, let’s take a look at general-election outside spending. The most, by far, has been in North Carolina — $22 million. Incumbent Kay Hagan, a Democrat, has a small lead in most public polls, and pro-Democratic groups have actually outspent Republicans about $13 million to $8 million. How important is North Carolina? It could be the Rosetta Stone on election night. Its early poll closing time — (7:30 pm ET) — and the fact that Hagan is holding up better than the other red-state Democrats so far — will tell us a lot about which direction control of the Senate is headed on Election Night. No. 2 on the list — Iowa, where pro-Democratic groups are outspending Republicans, hoping to paint Republican Joni Ernst as too extreme for the state Barack Obama won twice. Nos. 3 and 4 are Kentucky, where Republicans are doing all they can to give Mitch McConnell the best shot at becoming majority leader, and Colorado. Notice three of the top four — North Carolina, Iowa, and Colorado — are the states that make up the Democratic “firewall.” Democrats believe if they hold those three, they hold the Senate.

General Election Outside Spending in Key Races:
(Note: Because of rounding, some of the numbers might not add up.)
$22 million: North Carolina (Pro-D $13 million, Pro-R $8 million)
$15 million: Iowa (Pro-D $9 million, Pro-R $6 million)
$15 million: Kentucky (Pro-D $5 million, Pro-R $11 million)
$14 million: Colorado (Pro-D $10 million, Pro-R $5 million)
$12 million: Arkansas (Pro-D $7 million, Pro-R $4 million)
$11 million: Michigan (Pro-D $7 million, Pro-R $5 million)
$9 million: Alaska (Pro-D $4 million, Pro-R $5 million)
$6 million: Georgia (Pro-D $1 million, Pro-R $5 million)
$5 million: New Hampshire (Pro-D $2 million, Pro-R $3 million)
$3 million: Louisiana (Pro-D $2 million, Pro-R $1 million)

Wild West: By the way, wonder where the most contentious House races are? Look no further than Arizona. There’s been more outside money already spent in the race for Gabrielle Giffords’ seat — Arizona’s 2nd congressional district ($2.9 million) — than the Louisiana Senate race general election so far ($2.7 million). Coming up just behind that is the very competitive Arizona 1st district race, where $2.5 million has been spent. Speaking of Giffords, Politico spotlights how Giffords and her group have been running very tough ads against anti-gun control candidates, including for her old seat.

Obama to UN: In only the second time that a U.S. president has headed a United Nations Security Council session, President Obama will preside before about a dozen heads of state Wednesday to push a binding resolution that would urge member states to prosecute those who travel abroad to join foreign terrorist groups. The American proposal, which is expected to pass, compels states to adopt domestic laws for the prosecution of foreign fighters and for the first time sets up international standards for states to stop foreign terrorist organizations from recruiting their citizens or moving fighters through their territory. Of course, with any U.N resolution, even a legally binding one, comes the problem of enforcement. The draft resolution also does not define what a terrorist organization is, a likely source of disagreement among states. The resolution cites the Islamic State as an example, underscoring the importance to Mr. Obama of taking a lead against foreign fighters, who number 15,000 in Iraq and Syria, according to American intelligence officials.

Secret Service under scrutiny again: After a man with a knife jumped the fence to White House grounds Friday and made it all the way into the front door unimpeded, the Secret Service is investigating its protocols, what went wrong and how to prevent it in the future. The New York Times reports, “The Secret Service is considering screening tourists and other visitors at checkpoints before they enter the public areas in front of the White House….” The Washington Post: “Secret Service is weighing a series of measures that would move tourists and D.C. residents farther away from the complex to reduce the chances of intruders piercing its security perimeter and endangering the president. One proposal is to keep people off the sidewalks around the White House fence and create several yards of additional barrier around the compound’s perimeter.” Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who serves on the House Homeland Security Committee, tweeted, “Been investigating the Secret Service for some time. Frustrating. Good men and women but HUGE question marks for their leadership. This is not the first time Secret Service has shown too much vulnerability. There are other unreported incidents. I will continue to push.”

Lois Lerner breaks silence: The woman at the center of the IRS Tea Party targeting scandal, Lois Lerner, spoke for the first time to Politico in a two-hour session. The story’s lead: “Employers won’t hire her. She’s been berated with epithets like ‘dirty Jew.’ Federal agents have guarded her house because of death threats. And she’s spent hundreds of thousands of dollars defending herself against accusations that she orchestrated a cover up in a scandal that has come to represent everything Americans hate about the IRS. Lois Lerner is toxic — and she knows it. But she refuses to recede into anonymity or beg for forgiveness for her role in the IRS tea party-targeting scandal. ‘I didn’t do anything wrong,’ Lerner said….”

Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1961, President John F. Kennedy signed a congressional act that established the Peace Corps. Which member of Congress originally proposed a bill to establish the Peace Corps in 1957? Be the first to tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. Congratulations to Yvonne Gibney (@Lillyvonne228) for guessing Friday’s trivia: where and by whom was Garfield assassinated? The answer was: In Washington, D.C. by Charles J. Guiteau.


  • Before addressing the General Assembly and then presiding over the Security Council on Wednesday, Obama attends the Secretary General’s summit on climate change Tuesday. The summit is an effort to rally international support ahead of the UN’s climate negotiations in Lima, and then Paris in 2015. President Obama is the only leader of the world’s top three carbon emitters to attend the talks; the leaders of India and China will not be there. He’ll also get some time with the Clintons Tuesday, when he’ll speak about the importance of public-private partnerships to civil society at the Clinton Global Initiative. He’ll round out the week in New York on Thursday with UN meetings on Ebola.

  • This Sunday, environmental activists participated in an estimated 400,000-person march through Manhattan calling for action on climate change.

  • President Obama signs the America’s Promise Summit Declaration at 2 p.m. ET at the White House. Former Secretary of State under George W. Bush, Colin Powell will be present. Powell on Friday was asked by comedian Bill Maher if he has any buyer’s remorse in supporting President Obama, and he said, “None whatsoever.”

  • The Washington Post: “Former finance minister Ashraf Ghani was declared the winner of Afghanistan’s contested presidential election Sunday, setting the stage for President Hamid Karzai’s departure from office and a security agreement allowing American troops to remain in the country after this year.”

  • In her latest ad, Kentucky candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes, D, goes after Sen. Mitch McConnell for missing committee meetings and key votes.

  • The Florida gubernatorial race is chock full of outside money and negativity, and voters do not seem pleased with either candidate in the neck and neck contest.

  • Many red-state Democrats are putting the focus on protecting Medicare and Social Security to help regain some ground with seniors.

  • Congressional Democrats are talking about President Obama less and less in speeches on the House and Senate floor.

  • While Democrats are distancing themselves from the president, GOP Senate and gubernatorial candidates are adopting some Democratic principles to rally support among skeptical voters.

  • The Koch brothers political action committee, Freedom Partners Action Fund, is jumping into the Kansas Senate race to help out Republican incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts.

  • Americans for Shared Prosperity released an ad trying to convince voters to vote against Democrats in the midterms because they’ve “fallen out of love” with Obama.

  • Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper knows how to reach across the aisle, but both sides see his failure to be decisive on key issues as his weak point in getting re-elected.

  • Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann’s campaign team sent Sen. Al Franken a fundraising mailer, which asked him to donate money to defeat himself.

  • The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee again out-fundraised their Republican counterpart last month — this time by $5.8 million.

  • The current Congress could end up being the least productive legislature in 60 years.

  • Employees have left the Department of Homeland Security at rates nearly twice as fast as in the federal government overall during the past four years, and current and former officials say that’s hampering the agency’s ability to deal with emerging threats.

  • Go back to “The Week Politics Went Tabloid,” with Gary Hart.

  • Kansas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Paul Davis found himself in a bit of of water this weekend, trying to explain his presence at a strip club during a 1988 police raid.

  • Former Connecticut Gov. John Rowland became a convicted felon for a second time last week.

  • During a campaign stop at a Louisiana State University tailgate, Sen. Mary Landrieu helped a young man do a keg stand.

  • Keep an eye on the Rundown blog for breaking news throughout the day, our home page for show segments, and follow @NewsHour for the latest.


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Questions or comments? Email Domenico Montanaro at dmontanaro-at-newshour-dot-org or Terence Burlij at tburlij-at-newshour-dot-org.

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