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Monday, December 09, 2019

Hey, Big Spender: Which Outside Groups Were Winners On Election Day?

Outside groups spent more than $1.3 billion attempting to influence the 2012 elections, and we now know which ones got their money’s worth.

The Sunlight Foundation — a watchdog group that works towards greater transparency in politics — has put together a comprehensive list of outside spending groups’ returns on investment, by calculating the percentage of their spending that went to supporting candidates who won or opposing candidates who lost on election night. For many of the highest-profile outside groups — most of which supported conservative candidates and causes — the results were abysmal.

American Crossroads, the Karl Rove-led Super PAC, had an awful won-lost record in 2012. Only 1.29 percent of the $103,559,672 that that group spent resulted in American Crossroads’ expected outcome, and the group did not support a single winning candidate.

Rove’s “dark money” group, Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, didn’t fare much better. It had a 14.4 percent batting average — but also didn’t support any election-night winners.

Rove’s terrible return on his donors’ investments may come back to haunt him. As one Republican operative toldThe Huffington Post’s Jon Ward, “There is some holy hell to pay. Karl Rove has a lot of explaining to do… I don’t know how you tell your donors that we spent $390 million and got nothing.”

Charles and David Koch didn’t fare much better than Rove. The Koch brothers-linked Center to Protect Patient Rights backed several outside spending groups, few of which found much success in the election results. The American Future fund spent only 5.57 percent of its $23,613,532 successfully, opposing three losing candidates and supporting zero winners. Americans for Responsible Leadership was even worse, getting the desired result on only 1.96 percent of its $5,022,762 spent.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, another of the most prominent outside groups on the right, also found very little success — 6.9 percent of its spending ended with the intended result; the Chamber supported just four winning candidates, and opposed three election-night losers.

The Ending Spending Action Fund — a Super PAC backed by conservative billionaire Joe Ricketts, which memorably considered an ad campaign that would have painted President Barack Obama as a “metrosexual, black Abe Lincoln” — had a relatively low 15.34 percent ROI on its $13,238,296 of spending.

No outside spending group fared worse than the National Rifle Association. The National Rifle Association Of America Political Victory Fund spent $11,787,523 in 2012, only 0.81 percent of which delivered the group’s preferred electoral outcome.

Adding insult to injury for these Republican spendthrifts, many of the most successful outside spending groups were backed by the very constituency that the right-wingers were trying to crush: the labor movement.

Workers’ Voice got its desired result with 76.14 percent of the $5,733,122 it spent in the 2012 elections, supporting 14 winners and opposing 15 losers. The Service Employees International Union fared even better, with an 84.65 percent success rate on its $15,202,306 spent. The American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees got its hoped-for result with 44.6 percent of its $12,694,301 spent.

The other big winner on the left was Planned Parenthood. An astounding 97.82 percent of The Planned Parenthood Action Fund Inc.’s $6,886,468 spent ended in the group’s favor.

Of course, percentage-wise, the most successful outside spending group was the Obama-supporting group Priorities USA Action — 100 percent of the group’s $66,482,084 spent achieved the intended outcome: the re-election of President Barack Obama.

Click here to see the Sunlight Foundation’s full list.

Photo by “kaje_yomama” via


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