All News & Blogs
Political ads flooding Virginia
View More Images from this story
Visit the Photo Place
Date published: 9/30/2012
These superPACs and independent groups were working in the 2010 midterm elections, but this is the first presidential year in which they've existed.
So you have superPACs like Restore our Future, a PAC that supports Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney--it was founded by several Romney staffers--and has so far spent nearly $85 million to help fend off Romney's challengers in the primary and now help him in the general election.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Restore Our Future spent $40 million attacking Romney's Republican opponents, and $31 million against Democrats.
Priorities USA Action is the top pro-Obama superPAC, says CRP, founded by ex-Obama aides to counter the high-dollar spending from conservative PACs.
Priorities USA Action has spent $30 million, all against Republicans.
According to CRP's data, the superPACs have spent nearly $200 million for conservative viewpoints this year, and $70.5 million for liberal viewpoints.
The superPACs are the ones that disclose their donors. The top 100 individual superPAC donors comprise 1 percent of the groups' donors but 73 percent of the donations.
Other outside groups that are organized as nonprofits, similar to the superPACs, are spending millions, but they don't disclose their donors.
In Virginia, according to VPAP, conservative groups are outspending liberal ones three to one.
All of this spending on political advertising might go less noticed if the ads were positive. But they're largely negative. Nationally, the outside groups have spent about $378 million on ads that criticize other candidates (of both parties), versus $100 million on ads that are positive for candidates.
That doesn't even count the negative ads coming from campaigns themselves.
Often, negative ads are misleading, inaccurate, or out of context--on both sides of the aisle.
Take, for example, an ad from the pro-Obama Priorities USA Action, which essentially blames Romney for a woman's death because her husband lost his insurance when he was laid off from his company after Bain Capital bought it. But fact checkers say the man's wife had her own insurance through her job, and wasn't diagnosed with cancer until several years after he was laid off by Bain.
A Romney ad accuses Obama of "gutting" the work requirement for welfare, when fact checkers say Obama gave states greater flexibility to shape their own work requirements for welfare.
Why all the negativity? Because it works, Farnsworth said.
To check the accuracy of political ads, look at some fact-checking organizations:
To look into more independent-expenditure groups' campaign finance, check the Center for Responsive Politics and VPAP: