An anti-super PAC super PAC had a good year

A super PAC opposed to super PACs had a good election this week.

Friends of Democracy, formed to support candidates who favor limits on big money in politics, says that at least six of the eight candidates it supported won their races. A seventh race is headed for a recount with the group's favored candidate slightly ahead.

Financier Jonathan Soros, who helped launch the group with $100,000 in start-up funding, said in an interview that the results suggest reforming the nation's bloated campaign finance system can be a powerful message for politicians.

"In a House environment where not much changed overall, this seems to be a very clear theme that supporters of reform did well and opponents were defeated," he said. "Without regard to party, voters are disgusted with the way money flows into politics."

Soros is the son of prominent liberal donor and conservative bugaboo George Soros, who also spent money on this year's elections. Friends of Democracy attracted attention when it was formed because of the Soros name and because of its ironic goal of using unlimited money to fight the idea of unlimited money.

The super PAC, which spent about $2.5 million on races, says defeated candidates that it targeted this fall were Reps. Charlie Bass (R-N.H.), Nan Hayworth (R-N.Y.), Ann Marie Buerkle (R-N.Y.), Quico Canseco (R-Tex.), David Rivera (R-Fla.) and Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.).

Another Republican targeted by the group, Rep. Dan Lungren (Calif.), is behind by a couple hundred votes to Democrat Ami Bera in a race headed to a recount. The group said its only clear loss came in Ohio, where it spent about $170,000 on behalf of Democrat Betty Sutton, who lost to Rep. Jim Renacci.

The super PAC's track record runs counter to the broader trend in 2012, when outside groups spent more than $1 billion on the election but had relatively little impact on the outcome of most races. 

The stampede followed a 2010 Supreme Court decision allowing corporations and unions to spend unlimited funds for or against candidates. Friends of Democracy favors a public-matching system such as the one in New York City to encourage small donations and dampen the influence of wealthy donors.

Deputy Editor, National Politics

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