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New Analysis: Outside Spending in Competitive 2014 Senate Races Shatters 2012 Records

Nonparty outside spending and dark money reached new highs in this year’s midterm election.

November 3, 2014

Tomorrow’s midterm elections have seen new highs in nonparty outside spending (by groups other than the parties or candidates) and dark money, according to a new analysis by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law of the 11 “toss-up” 2014 Senate races. Some of the takeaways:

  • The $328 million of non-party outside money spent in these 11 races surpasses the total $259 million of such spending in all 33 2012 Senate races combined.
  • Three races, in North Carolina ($78 million), Colorado ($64 million), and Iowa ($56 million), have already broken the all-time record for most outside spending in a Senate race ($52 million).
  • 58 percent of nonparty outside spending, nearly $200 million, was “dark money,” spent by groups that don’t report the identities of some or all of their donors. Pro-Republican nonparty outside spending is far more likely (76 percent) to come from dark money groups than pro-Democrat spending (35 percent).
  • Expenditures have increased drastically as Election Day approaches, with almost half of outside expenditures ($207 million) made since the beginning of October. Since the data sample ends on October 29, there may be significantly more spending between then and Election Day on November 4.

“These 11 competitive Senate races have attracted the greatest amount of outside spending and reveal significant trends in the growing influence of big money in our elections,” said report author Ian Vandewalker. “It is possible that those trends – unprecedented amounts of outside spending and dark money – will soon become the norm across American elections.”

As Lawrence Norden and Wendy Weiser wrote at The Huffington Post, this huge rise in outside spending and dark money can be directly traced to the Roberts Supreme Court’s rulings. Considering its simultaneous dismantling of voting rights protections, the Court is poised to have a significant impact on tomorrow’s election.

“Cash from unknown sources is flooding the most important races, while state politicians have instituted new barriers to the ballot box for millions of Americans,” they wrote. “Regardless of who wins, the integrity of our elections has been undermined.”

The Brennan Center will release another analysis of spending following the election.

Brennan Center experts will be available to discuss how these and other issues impact tomorrow’s election, including: the rise of big outside and dark money in our elections, the parallel rise in spending in judicial elections, voting rights, redistricting, and more.

For more information or to schedule an interview, contact Naren Daniel at (646) 292–8381 or