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Election Spending 2016: Outside Groups Outspend Candidates and Parties in Key Senate Races

KEY FACT: Outside Groups Outspend Candidates and Parties in Key Senate Races

Published: November 1, 2016

For what may be the first time, outside groups — nomin­ally inde­pend­ent spend­ers that are free from contri­bu­tion limits and can some­times conceal their donors from the public — are outspend­ing the parties and candid­ates in ten key U.S. Senate races, accord­ing to this new analysis based on FEC data. While closely tied to the parties and candid­ates despite weak rules against coordin­a­tion, these groups bene­fit from being able to raise most of their money from a hand­ful of mega-donors. The analysis also finds outside spend­ing reach­ing record highs, a dispro­por­tion­ate amount of it bene­fit­ing Repub­lican candid­ates, and an increas­ing concen­tra­tion of dark money among a few big outside groups.