With the election still five months away, attack ads have already hit the airwaves in Michigan’s gubernatorial race thanks to two national organizations that are on pace to break spending records this fall as they duel over governorships in 36 states.
Through March, the Republican Governors Association has spent five times more around the country than it did at the same point four years ago while the Democratic Governors Association's overall spending is double what it was in 2010, according to data from the Internal Revenue Service.
Both groups are “527s,” tax-exempt organizations named for the IRS code they fall under, which can accept unlimited amounts of money from individuals, corporations and unions. Depending on state rules, the money can be given directly to candidates or as independent advertising to goose a campaign.
Much of the money spent so far has been used on so-called outside spending, the controversial political advertising created independently of candidates. The two groups are typically the largest state outside spenders across the country, so their increased early spending likely indicates that outside spending will be higher across the board this election cycle.
Already the RGA has spent more than $15 million overall on its operations. By comparison, the group had spent just over $3 million through March in 2010, part of more than $110 million spent during the cycle that helped the party pick up five governorships previously held by Democrats.
Related: DGA profile
At least $5 million of that 2014 spending has been used to flood the airwaves with early ads, including in the Michigan race that pits incumbent Republican Gov. Rick Snyder against presumed Democratic challenger Mark Schauer.
Snyder has been attacked for making cuts to education while his presumed Democratic opponent has been criticized for his support of the federal stimulus package when he served in Congress.
Michigan’s primary is in August.
The RGA has also targeted races with ads in Arkansas, Georgia, New Mexico, Ohio, South Carolina and Wisconsin.
Separately the D.C.-based group has given $2.5 million directly to a committee supporting Florida’s Republican incumbent, Rick Scott, and $1.5 million to a committee supporting the Republican challenger in Illinois, Bruce Rauner, along with contributions to Republican groups in Texas, Maine, Pennsylvania and Kansas.
Related: RGA profile
This story is part of Consider the Source. Seeking to ‘out’ shadowy political organizations flourishing in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling. Click here to read more stories in this investigation.
- Outside spending makes big difference in state-level races
- News Corp. leans left by donating to Democrats
- GOP governors group dwarfs Democrats in fundraising
- Billionaires boost Republican governors group past Democrats in fundraising
- RGA raises $50 million going into election year
- Rove-affiliated groups spend $175 million, lose 21 of 30 races
Copyright 2014 The Center for Public Integrity. This story was published by The Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit, nonpartisan investigative news organization in Washington, D.C.