Defeated Democrats outspent GOP in many campaigns

Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, November 4, 2010

The vast group of House Democrats defeated Tuesday lacked many things, but money wasn't one of them.

In two-thirds of the House seats that Republicans picked up Tuesday, Democratic candidates had more money behind them, according to a Washington Post analysis of data from the Federal Election Commission.

Overall, Democratic candidates in the 63 races that flipped to the GOP had $206.4 million behind them, a tally that includes candidate fundraising and spending by parties and interests. That compares with only $171.7 million for their GOP rivals.

The pattern appears to contradict widespread complaints from Democrats that they were being unfairly overrun by wealthy Republicans, many of whom donated money to conservative groups to spend on political races - unencumbered by the limits and public-disclosure requirements that constrain most political fundraising. The data show that even in many races in which Republicans had more outside help, they still had fewer resources than their Democratic opponents.

"It sends a clear message that most Democrats couldn't buy their way out of bad spending and health-care votes," said Ron Bonjean, a GOP consultant and former top House and Senate aide. "It shows just how desperate the White House was in the final months of the campaign to make unsubstantiated claims that could easily backfire without the real facts."

In the run-up to the election, President Obama and other Democratic Party leaders decried the influx of outside money for Republicans, alleging that some of it may have come from overseas sources.

"The record amount of secret money spent by right-wing outside groups turned this political storm into a Category 3 political hurricane," said Ryan Rudominer, spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Democrats say that reliance on spending by interest groups calls into question the independence of lawmakers, especially when the sources of funding are hidden from the public.

Outside interests played a bigger role in Senate races, and their aid helped the Republicans, the data show.

Some Republicans were able to win despite being badly outspent in Democratic-leaning districts. Outside Philadelphia, Rep. Patrick J. Murphy (D), the Democratic Party and groups backing them had about three times as much as conservatives and the campaign of former congressman Mike Fitzpatrick.

Murphy's campaign used its financial advantage to run ads tarring Fitzpatrick, but the Republican triumphed regardless, bringing in 54 percent of the vote. Obama won the district with 54 percent in 2008.

Fitzpatrick, a lawyer, served one term in Congress before losing to Murphy in the Democratic wave of 2006. Murphy was the first veteran of the Iraq war elected to Congress when he narrowly took the Bucks County district.

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