In elections past, a good indicator of whether a candidate would win was to look at how much money they had raised: the more money, the better their chances. In this, the first post-Citizens United election, that equation may have been pushed aside by a new math. Now, what may matter more is how much money other people are spending to elect—or defeat—a candidate. As David Corn wrote earlier today, independent advocacy groups have poured nearly half a billion* dollars into this election—much of it raised behind closed doors from undisclosed donors.
So, have the "dark money" groups and super PACs gotten their dollar's worth? A quick sampling of election results suggests that they did. In most of the races below, the loser was the candidate who had the most independent money expended to defeat him/her; conversely, winners generally had more outside cash spent to elect them. We'll keep looking at the data after the election results are final to see if this trend holds up. If it does, it's proof that this election really did change the rules of the campaign finance game.
If you're trying to make sense of the $2 billion being spent in anticipation of next Tuesday's election, here's a few nifty tools. Maplight.org and Wired have teamed up to create the Influence Tracker, which compiles the latest data on members of Congress' haul during this election cycle as well as their biggest donors. Nice touch: logos of each member's top corporate sponsors.
The Sunlight Foundation's Influence Explorer app creates similar snapshots of canddiates' war chests, but includes challengers who aren't currently members of Congress. Nice 20th-century touch: For $2, you can mail a copy of the data directly to friends and family in postcard form.
Why did Anakin Sywalker turn to the dark side? Why did Tintin never grow up? Real researchers have gone looking for the undiagnosed maladies that explain the quirks of some famous fictional characters.
Diagnosis: Borderline personality disorder
Discussion: In a letter to Psychiatry Research, French psychiatrist Eric Bui argues that Anakin Skywalker's transformation into the Dark Lord of the Sith shows all the hallmarks of BPD, including lack of impulse control and abandonment issues.
Diagnosis: Distal renal tubular acidosis (Type I)
Discussion: D.W. Lewis writes in the American Journal of Diseases of Children that Dickens' young optimist suffered from a rare condition whose symptoms include stunted growth, weak muscles, paralysis, and possible kidney failure.
Top donors: In the special election to fill Ted Kennedy's seat, Brown's biggest donors were Fidelity Investments, Bain Capital (Mitt Romney's old firm), and Credit Suisse. But—whoops!—he voted for the financial regulation bill.
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)
Total raised: $37.2 million, 14% from FIRE
Top donors: The top Senate Republican's most generous contributors have been US Smokeless Tobacco—now part of Altria, née Philip Morris—and Brown-Forman, the maker of Jack Daniel's. Cheers!
Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.)
Terms: 4 (2 in House)Total raised: $35.4 million, 17% from lawyers and lobbyists
Top donors: 5 out of the majority leader's top 10 lifetime donors are casinos or gambling interests. The industry has bet more than $1.7 million on him, plus $1.3 mil on fellow Nevada Sen. John Ensign.
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.)
Terms: 3 (5 in House)
Total raised: $75.3 million, 7% from lawyers and lobbyists
Top donors: Boxer is Hollywood's favorite member of Congress (aside from Sen. John Kerry). Her second-biggest donor is Time Warner; Disney is sixth.
Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.)
Terms: 2 (4 in House)
Total raised: $31.8 million, 12% from agribusiness
Top donors: The ranking member of the ag committee has never met a federal farm subsidy he didn't like. He just happens to be Congress' second-most bountiful recipient of agribusiness cash.
Total raised: $16.2 million, 13% from energy and natural resources
Top donors: Inhofe, who's declared that "man-induced global warming is an article of religious faith," has received more money from Koch Industries than any other company. The oil firm has given nearly $25 million to climate-change denial groups.
The House: Big Labor vs. Big Money
SECTOR | # OF MEMBERS
Finance, insurance, and real estate 159
Lawyers and lobbyists 20
Miscellaneous business 18
Energy and natural resources 10
Communications and electronics 4
Unfilled seats 2
Total seats | 435
Rep. David Obey (D-Wisc.)
Total raised: $10.8 million, 21% from labor
Top donors: The chair of the appropriations committee and a subcommittee with oversight of labor matters, is the House's second-biggest recipient of union cash. Obey's retiring in the face of a challenge from Real World star Sean Duffy.