For all the ink spilled on moneyed outside groups’ prominent role in the 2010 campaign, their influence might have been overstated.
A new study from the Wesleyan Media Project found that while outside groups spent slightly more on ads in House and Senate races in the 2010 cycle proportionately to the total amount invested in the campaign, their contributions represented only a small increase from 2000.
Despite the heightened attention on independent groups over the course of the campaign, according to the study, candidates and campaign committees actually drove most of the spending. By the time the final campaign ad aired, candidates and parties paid for 85 percent of all ads in Senate races and 88 percent of ads in House races.
The report also rebuts the widely held belief that Republicans vastly outspent Democrats on the airwaves.
While Democratic officials –including the Obama White House and House and Senate campaign leaders – complained about the wave of conservative outside activity, Franz noted that well-funded Democratic committees and candidates held their own.
Over the course of the campaign, the report found, Democratic committees and candidates outspent their GOP foes $159 million to $112 million – more than enough to compensate for the money outside GOP-leaning groups contributed toward airtime.
“If anything, pro-Republican groups helped keep Republican challengers competitive with the incumbent Democratic class,” the report says.
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