Two-thirds of Senate GOP and Nearly Half of Dem Advertising Sponsored by Outside Groups;
Almost 60 percent of Group Spending is Undisclosed Dark Money
(MIDDLETOWN, CT) April 29, 2014 – With control of the U.S. Senate at stake, advertising in senatorial races is off to an early start, with 109,701 airings at an estimated $43.1 million spent on television ads so far, a 45 percent increase over ad airings in Senate races at this point in the cycle in 2012. Outside groups are responsible for the majority of spots on the airwaves in Senate campaigns (59 percent of airings, a 64 percentage jump over 2012 levels). Just over two-thirds (67 percent) of ads favoring Republican Senate candidates were aired by outside groups, compared to almost half (49 percent) of the ads favoring Democratic Senate candidates.
What is more, a Wesleyan Media Project analysis, in partnership with the Center for Responsive Politics, reveals that over half of the group-sponsored ads aired so far are so-called “dark money” ads (see Figure 1). In Senate races, 59 percent of interest group airings were sponsored by 501c3, 501c4 and 501c6 groups, which are not required to disclose their donors. In House races, the equivalent percentage is 57 percent.
(Read more about the Wesleyan Media Project’s 2014 ad analysis work, and our grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation here.)