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Election Spending 2014: 9 Toss-Up Senate Races

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Using newly released FEC data, Election Spending 2014: 9 Toss-Up Senate Races examines outside spending in 2014’s nine most competitive U.S. Senate races, the outcomes of which will likely determine which party controls the Senate for the next two years. The report found record highs in total outside spending, “dark money” spending by groups that conceal the identity of their donors, and spending by single-candidate groups. In fact, it is likely that eight of these nine races will match or exceed the previous record high for spending in a Senate race, while less than half the expenditures so far have come from the candidates themselves. In other words, outside money made possible by weak regulation and Supreme Court rulings like Citizens United is giving wealthy spenders more power than ever to buy influence over elections.
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    Election Spending 2014: 9 Toss-Up Senate Races By Ian Vandewalker  Brennan Center for Justice   at New York University School of Law   ANALYSIS   ABOUT THE BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE Te Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law is a nonpartisan law and policy institute that seeks to improve our systems of democracy and justice. We work to hold our political institutions and laws accountable to the twin American ideals of democracy and equal justice for all. Te Center’s work ranges from voting rights to campaign finance reform, from racial justice in criminal law to Constitutional protection in the fight against terrorism. A singular institution — part think tank, part public interest law firm, part advocacy group, part communications hub — the Brennan Center seeks meaningful, measurable change in the systems by which our nation is governed.  ABOUT THE BRENNAN CENTER’S DEMOCRACY PROGRAM Te Brennan Center’s Democracy Program works to repair the broken systems of American democracy. We encourage broad citizen participation by promoting voting and campaign reform. We work to securefair courts and to advance a First Amendment jurisprudence that puts the rights of citizens — not specialinterests — at the center of our democracy. We collaborate with grassroots groups, advocacy organizations, and government officials to eliminate the obstacles to an effective democracy.  ABOUT THE BRENNAN CENTER’S PUBLICATIONS Red cover | Research reports offer in-depth empirical findings. Blue cover  | Policy proposals offer innovative, concrete reform solutions.  White cover | White papers offer a compelling analysis of a pressing legal or policy issue. © 2014. Tis paper is covered by the Creative Commons “Attribution-No Derivs-NonCommercial” license (see http://creativecommons.org). It may be reproduced in its entirety as long as the Brennan Center is credited, a link to the Center’s web page is provided, and no charge is imposed. Te paper may not be reproduced in part or in altered form, or if a fee is charged, without the Center’s permission. Please let the Brennan Center know if you reprint.   ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Te Brennan Center gratefully acknowledges the Democracy Alliance Partners, Lisa and Douglas Goldman Fund, Joyce Foundation, Te JPB Foundation, John D. and Catherine . MacArthur Foundation, Te Over-brook Foundation, Open Society Foundations, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Jennifer and Jonathan Allan Soros Foundation, and the WhyNot Initiative for their generous support of our money in politics work.Research and Program Associate Eric Petry provided an enormous amount of essential assistance with analysis and research. Tis report would not have been possible without his efforts. Additional invaluable research was performed by Research Associate Avram Billig, who also contributed a portion of the text. Elise Bromberg and Haley Shoaf assisted with research. Christopher Famighetti and Daniel I. Weiner offered valuable input to the data collection process. Useful edits were added by Jim Lyons. Naren Daniel and Lena Glaser contributed com-munications, design, and layout assistance. Lawrence Norden, Deputy Director of the Democracy Program, provided editing and indispensable guidance throughout the project. Te author would also like to thank Michael  Waldman for his guidance of the Money in Politics work.Te statements made and views expressed in this report are the sole responsibility of the Brennan Center. Any errors are the responsibility of the author.  ABOUT THE AUTHOR  Ian Vandewalker serves as counsel for the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program where he works on voting cam-paign finance reform. Prior to joining the Brennan Center, he served as a legal fellow at the Center for Reproductive Rights, where he litigated constitutional cases in state and federal courts across the country. Before that, Mr. Vande- walker served as the Rockefeller Brothers Fund Fellow in Nonprofit Law at the Vera Institute of Justice and clerked for the Honorable Frederic Block of the Eastern District of New York. Mr. Vandewalker earned his JD cum laude in 2008 from New York University School of Law, where he served as a senior articles editor for the NYU Review of Law and Social Change. During law school, he was an Arthur Garfield Hays Civil Liberties Fellow; his areas of focus for the fellowship were the First Amendment and reproductive rights. He holds an M.A. in philosophy from Indiana University and a B.A. from New College of Florida  .  TABLE OF CONTENTS  Introduction   1  Methodology   2  I. Outside Spending Hits New Highs   4  A. Candidates Made Less than Half of Expenditures   6 B. More Spending in Store   7 II. Dark Money Dominates Nonparty Spending   8 III. Single-Candidate Groups Spend More and Disclose Less 10  A. Double-dipping Donors Can Evade Contribution Limits   12 B. Possible Cooperation with Campaigns   12 IV. Newly Competitive Kansas   14V. Candidate Spotlight: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell 15VI. Spender Spotlight: Senate Majority PAC   17VII. Unreported Spending: Dark Money that Cannot be Counted   18VIII. Policy Recommendations 19  A. The Disclose Act of 2014   19 B. Internal Reveneu Service Rulemaking on Nonprofits’ Political Activities   20 C. Securities and Exchange Commission Rulemaking on Corporate Political Activity   20 D. The Empowering Citizens Act and Strengthened Coordination Rules   21 E. Public Campaign Financing   21  Endnotes   22
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