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'Super' spending OK, but not if you're a teacher

We knew super-PACs were spending a lot of money in this campaign season -- in the presidential race, and in down-the-ballot races.
'Super' spending OK, but not if you're a teacher
'Super' spending OK, but not if you're a teacher

We knew super-PACs were spending a lot of money in this campaign season -- in the presidential race, and in down-the-ballot races. But this much?

About 78% of campaign spending comes from super-PACs, a new study from the Sunlight Foundation found this week.  Of the $465 million reportedly spent by Sunday evening in the 2012 campaign cycle, $365 million can be attributed to the Citizens United effect, and the majority of that money was spent on local races and on negative campaigning. 

This may not come as news to many who have grown increasingly aware of the role that "dirty, angry money" now plays in politics, but it's important to note how fast this business of outside campaign spending has grown: in 2010, only about 40% of spending came from outside groups. 

The Sunlight Foundation's Following the Unlimited Money site tracks this out-of-hand spending by states, races, candidates, and it's worth checking out for the shock value. Italics mine:

  • $363.2 million was spent on negative ads against a candidate; $99.6 million was spent in support of a candidate.
  • The pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future spent made more than double the independent expenditures and contributions than the pro-Obama super PAC, Priorities USA Action.
  • Opposing expenditures against President Obama top more than $130 million; opposing expenditures against Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney are about $50 million.
  • Supporting expenditures for Obama amount to about $6.5 million, while supporting expenditures for Romney total about $15.7 million.

Those numbers are just a few related to the presidential race, but what's happening in local House and Senate races is important, as well. Senate control is up for grabs this year -- as we noted in last week's "Go Figure," only so it's unsurprising that the top 12 races influenced by outside spending right now (not including the presidential race) are all Senate races.

Last month, the President addressed the question of super-PACs on Reddit and said the flood of anonymous money influencing politics is a problem. "They fundamentally threaten to overwhelm the political process over the long run and drown out the voices of ordinary citizens," Obama wrote. 

What does Romney think of all this? Well, he's for limiting campaign contributions -- as long as they're coming from teachers' unions. John Nichols in The Nation reported what the GOP nominee said during an appearance at NBC's Education Nation earlier this week:

America’s primary proponent of big money in politics now says that he wants to silence K-12 teachers who pool their resources in order to defend public education for kids whose parents might not be wealthy enough to pay the $39,000 a year it costs to send them to the elite Cranbrook Schools attended by young Willard Mitt.“We simply can’t have a setting where the teachers unions are able to contribute tens of millions of dollars to the campaigns of politicians and then those politicians, when elected, stand across from them at the bargaining table, supposedly to represent the interest of the kids. I think it’s a mistake,” the Republican nominee for president of 53 percent of the United States said during an appearance Tuesday with NBC’s Education Nation. “I think we’ve got to get the money out of the teachers unions going into campaigns. It’s the wrong way for us to go.”

For Congress' part, Democrats introduced the DISCLOSE Act in 2010 in response to the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling. DISCLOSE promotes transparency and gives the public access to information regarding political contributions and campaign expenditures. Naturally, in July, Senate Republicans blocked the bill from advancing.

See Melissa's Saturday "Go Figure" on the aforementioned down-ballot races, and subsequent discussion, after the jump. Below, thanks to a tip on our Facebook page from viewer Tony Anderson, you'll find last night's coverage on "The Ed Show" of Romney's Education Nation appearance, adding depth to the report we reference earlier.