Post Mortem #3: The Role of Outside Spending and Unions
One of the most bizarre campaign themes of Obama down the stretch was his complaints about outside money from mysterious places and donors influencing the outcomes of elections. Nancy Pelosi told Democratic benefactors that “everything was going great” until there was a flood of outside money pouring into races. Apparently, I missed that part of the nightly news where San Francisco was somehow magically transported to the far side of the moon because I do not know where Pelosi got the idea that things were “going great” for the Democratic Party in 2010. But, this very much points out the detachment from reality which Democrats suffer from nationally. Either they totally deluded themselves into thinking they would be victorious on November 2nd, or their internal pollsters really, really suck. While every exit poll I have seen thus far shows that the economy and jobs are the number one concern of voters, Obama and company were railing against phantom foreign monetary influences in the electoral process.
Ever since the Supreme Court decided the Citizens United case, Obama has had it in for that decision, John Roberts, and the Supreme Court in general. And it started with his State of the Union address with members of the Court sitting front and center while he publicly chastised them for their “partisan” decision while his Democratic cronies cheered and jeered in the background. We all remember Justice Alito mouthing the words “not true” and shaking his head while Obama hammered away. Since then, Congress has written the DISCLOSE Act to “close the loopholes” created by the decision regardless of the fact that it will probably not pass constitutional muster.
This whole concept illustrates how the Obama mind and White House operate and think. Considering the fact that this administration has the lowest percentage of officials with real-world experience in history, it is not surprising. They base their decisions not on how things work in the real world, but based on some academic theory and computer model. The complaints against anonymous donors and outside spending in elections is based upon the assumption that advertising absolutely affects voting behavior. It does not account for the fact that people- voters- can make decisions regarding candidates independent of outside group advertising. But then, Obama has psychoanalyzed the American electorate and our “hard wiring” and predisposition to fear reactions and acting irrationally. What else could explain a 60-seat pick up in the House and six seats in the Senate considering the legislative “achievements” of this administration? Other than irrational voter behavior, according to Obama, it is his lack of communication regarding these achievements. This comes from a man many consider a great orator and speech giver (actually, provided a teleprompter is present).
So using figures from Opensecrets.org and election results, I decided to put the outside money influence hypothesis of the White House brainiacs to the test. In 16 Senate races, the candidate who received more outside spending support than their opponent won in only 5 of those races for a 31.3% success rate. The exceptions were Alaska (whoever that is), Boxer in California, Reid in Nevada, Portman in Ohio, and Murray in Washington. Among House candidates, the candidate who received more outside spending support than their opponent won 33 of 65 cases for a 50.8% success rate. Outside spending played any role in only one Governor’s race- in Ohio- and Strickland received the most support and lost. Taken together, the candidate that received the greater amount of outside money support prevailed 46.9% of the time. The role of outside spending influencing an election falls somewhere south of the odds of an outcome of a coin flip. Incidentally, speaking of these 82 races, the Democrat had the advantage in 53 races (or 64.6% of the races) while in terms of total amount of money spent, 56.9% supported Democratic candidates and 43.1% supported Republican candidates.
Looking at the top 20 outside spending organizations, they are evenly split- 10 conservative and 10 liberal organizations. Together, they spent $205.63 million with 69% of it by conservative groups. Looking at the top ten candidates they supported (or opposed, thus counting as support for the opponent), the 10 conservative groups had a success rate of 55%. The liberal groups, using the same criteria, had a success rate of 37.5%. One can argue that the conservative groups spent their money better than the liberal groups. Of course, we can also surmise that the national electorate is, by and large, somewhere right of center to start with anyway. But mostly we can determine that even at 55%, the success rate is not that far from that hypothetical odds of predicting the outcome of an election by a coin flip. By far the best performing conservative group with a 70% success rate was the American Action Network while the best performing liberal group was Commonsense 10 with a success rate of 90%.
In terms of the targets of Democratic vitriol this past election, the Chamber of Commerce, American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS spent 34.7% of the total of these top 20 groups. For their money, their success rate among the top ten benefactors of support was 40%. Conversely, among the liberal groups five were unions which contributed a combined 19% of the grand total of these top 20 groups. For their investment, they obtained a success rate of 31.3%.
Also, among the top 50 industries that contribute to campaigns, a Republican candidate is the top recipient of that sector’s money in only 11 industries with Roy Blunt’s name showing up 4 times. That means that Democrats are the leading recipients in 39 of the tracked 50 industries. And guess who’s name appears the most for the Democrats? It’s Chuck Schumer of New York whose name shows up 11 times among the top 50 industries. Bet you were thinking Harry Reid- he’s second with 4 industries. That means that in 15 of 39 industries, two people- Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer- are the leading receipients.
Finally, consider the following. The top donor to the Patriot Majority- a group that supports Democrats- is AFSCME. In fact, their spending in the elections this year was $87.5 million as of late October. AFSCME, SEIU and the NEA- all public worker unions- have spent a combined $171.5 million as opposed to the two right-wing bogeymen on Obama’s list (American Crossroads and the Chamber of Commerce) spending $140 million. Considering the growth of government in recent years under Obama, the membership of AFSCME has grown 25% in the past decade. Larry Scanlon, head of their political operations said: “The more members coming in, the more dues coming in, the more money we have for politics.” That speaks volumes. Unfortunately, it reveals the hypocrisy of the Obama mindset. Keep in mind that these are public worker unions and public workers are paid with our taxes. Hence, $171.5 million of our tax money is essentially recycled into the political process by unions. Why Obama and the Democrats do not rail against this perversion is quite obvious since greater than 95% of union money goes to Democrats.
It is obvious from the above cited statistics that spending by outside groups does not have that great an effect on the outcome of elections. If the success rate of candidates receiving an advantage in outside spending is somewhere near or below 50%, then it is a testament to the intelligence of the voters, not some animus against the party in power because of Obama’s psychoanalytic musings or lack of communication expertise. There is no bogeyman, no foreign influence flowing in. If anything, these statistics indicate that voters can make informed decisions, and that information dictated the Democratic losses this year, not outside spending by special interest groups. Alito’s head shake holds more truth than any words from Obama’s lips! The only perversion regarding money in the electoral process is the recycling of the hard-earned tax dollars of every American taxpayer who, ironically, are citizens united.