Right and left both exploit new campaign spending rules

Since the Supreme Court loosened rules on political spending in 2010, the Republican Party, boosted by corporate and billionaire backers, has been painted as the biggest beneficiary. But in New Hampshire and a handful of other states in 2012, including Maine, Democrats flipped the script.
illustration showing a puppet master picking up the pieces of states from a globe
Photo by Timothy Meko of the Center for Public Integrity.

Coming out of the primaries in last year’s gubernatorial election, New Hampshire Republican Ovide Lamontagne enjoyed a huge cash advantage over Democrat Maggie Hassan.

Polls predicted a tight race for the general election in the Granite State, but Hassan’s expensive primary victory left her with less than $17,000 cash on hand, while Lamontange had more than $250,000.

That advantage might have proved decisive in previous elections — but in a race where outside groups outspent the candidates and flooded the state with millions of dollars’ worth of attack ads, it was largely meaningless.

By Election Day, organizations backed by unions and the largely union-funded Democratic Governors Association (DGA) would spend roughly $7 million on the New Hampshire election. National unions spent another $2 million directly. Most of the cash went toward ads bashing Republican Lamontagne, who supported “right to work” legislation aimed at curbing union power, the same legislation that outgoing Democratic Gov. John Lynch had vetoed.

“Hassan was propped up and carried to victory by the outside groups,” says Fergus Cullen, a former head of the state Republican Party who helped raise funds for Lamontagne.

Since the Supreme Court loosened rules on political spending in 2010, the Republican Party, boosted by corporate and billionaire backers, has been painted as the biggest beneficiary. But in New Hampshire and a handful of other states in 2012, Democrats flipped the script.

In New Hampshire, groups backing Democrats reported spending nearly $1 million more than their Republican counterparts.

Nonprofits, super PACs, and other non-candidate groups reported spending at least $209 million to influence elections in 38 states, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of data from the National Institute on Money in State Politics (NIMSP) and state elections offices.

Pro-Democratic groups, many associated with unions, outspent their Republican counterparts by more than $8 million, according to the Center’s analysis.

More than one out of every two dollars spent originated from groups funded primarily or entirely by out-of-state donors. Even seemingly local entities, like state parties, were recipients of huge influxes of outside cash. In New Hampshire, for instance, the DGA gave the state Democratic Party nearly $3 million, which mostly went to helping Hassan.

Analyzing outside spending in the states is difficult due to weak disclosure rules. In South Carolina, for instance, outside groups are not required to report a dime of what they spend.

Twelve states were left out of the analysis either because there was no significant election activity, or disclosure laws were so poor that it was impossible to accurately identify outside spending activity.

In addition, totals may not include spending on so-called “issue ads,” which often clearly favor a candidate but are vaguely worded enough to avoid reporting requirements.

Eyes on New Hampshire

In New Hampshire, outside spending per registered voter was higher than any other state. Nearly $24 was spent per registered voter, more than double the ratio in Wisconsin, which ranked a distant second, according to the Center’s analysis.

Lamontagne’s campaign in New Hampshire was assisted by the nation’s most prolific state-level outside spender and the DGA’s counterpart, the Republican Governors Association (RGA). Both groups are based in Washington, D.C. The RGA was the sole funder of the “Live Free PAC,” which ran ads attacking Hassan.

The RGA, whose donors include energy and pharmaceutical companies, along with billionaire conservatives, pumped more than $8 million into the New Hampshire group. One Live Free ad attacked Hassan for not paying property taxes on her $500,000 home. The ads failed to mention that the home belongs to Phillips Exeter Academy, a tony prep school where her husband is the principal and is required to live on campus.

“I don’t know who came up with that ad but they didn’t earn their money on that one,” says Kathy Sullivan, a Hassan adviser.

Outside spending groups aren’t new to New Hampshire, but the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010 made it easier than ever for them to pump money into last year’s election.

Citing the ruling, the state attorney general’s office issued an opinion in August 2012 that said outside groups could raise unlimited funds and use the proceeds to support or oppose a candidate. Previously, donations to the groups were capped at $5,000.

The most donors could give to the candidates themselves last year was $7,000.

Come Election Day, outside groups had spent more than all state-level candidates in New Hampshire had raised — $18 million to $13 million — according to data compiled by the Center and (NIMSP). Hassan beat Lamontagne by 12 points, Democrats retook the House and made gains in the Senate.

“Candidate committees have almost become irrelevant,” Corey Lewandowski told the NH Journal. Lewandowski was the New Hampshire state director in 2012 for conservative nonprofit Americans for Prosperity, which backs tea party candidates and typically runs non-reported issue ads.

“If you can write a larger, more substantial check, there’s no reason to give to candidates, he said. “Everything you want to do, you can do through a PAC or another entity. It makes the behind-the-scenes players much more influential than they ever were.”

Split victories

Unlike 2010, when the RGA helped Republicans make net gains of five governorships and win control of 22 more state legislative chambers — the GOP had a rougher go of it in 2012.

National unions, seemingly shattered following Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s easy victory in a recall election the previous June, roared back with massive spending that helped state-level Democratic candidates around the country.

In total, pro-labor groups reported spending nearly $44 million in 2012, according to the Center analysis.

Republicans enjoyed several victories, however.

They gained almost complete control of North Carolina’s state government — where spending by outside groups backed by businesses, billionaires and “free-market” nonprofit entities, some with ties to billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch — was rampant.

And in Arkansas, outside groups helped flip the state legislature to GOP control for the first time in more than a hundred years.

The Citizens United decision allows corporations and unions to spend as much as they want on ads supporting or opposing candidates, as long as they don’t coordinate with campaigns. The ruling had a powerful impact on federal races but also made it easier than ever for outside groups to raise and spend cash on state races.

The high court ruling invalidated prohibitions on corporate and union spending in 24 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Following the Citizens United ruling, outside groups were able to accept unlimited donations, leading to the creation of “super PACs” and the proliferation of political nonprofits, free to spend on both federal and state elections.

Super PACs made it easier for the super-wealthy to spend a fortune trying to influence elections, a prominent story line of the 2012 presidential campaign. Some of the same prominent donors to federal super PACs also gave to newly formed state super PACs.

Casino magnate and Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson gave $250,000 to a new super PAC in New Mexico called Reform New Mexico Now. Major Democratic donor Fred Eychaner gave $215,000 to one in Illinois called Personal PAC Independent Committee.

For candidates on the receiving end of a barrage of outside spending, last year’s elections left a bitter taste. Many feel they would have won were it not for outside groups; others who won still feel they were unfairly attacked by groups with hidden agendas.

It’s a system, many of the candidates say, that’s broken.

“I wouldn’t get back into politics to save my life,” said former Maine state Sen. Lois Snowe-Mello, a Republican who was ousted last year with the help of a union-funded group.

Meanwhile, gridlock in Washington has led to a greater focus on the states — where a dollar goes a lot further than it does in federal contests.

“Right now in Washington, D.C., as long as you have a divided government, there’s only so much you can do,” says Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, an anti-tax nonprofit. “More of the important decisions — the whole conversation of tort reform to tax policy to spending issues — are happening at the state level. So we’ve been more interested in focusing there.”

Americans for Tax Reform spent at least $440,000 targeting state legislative races in seven states last election cycle.

Early start

The proxy wars started early last year with the June recall election of Walker who pushed to eliminate the collective bargaining rights of many of Wisconsin’s public sector unions.

Walker, who was able to raise unlimited amounts for his campaign while his opponent could not because of a quirk in state election law, enjoyed a $30.5 million to $4.4 million advantage over Milwaukee’s Democratic Mayor Tom Barrett.

Outside groups funded by national unions spent heavily to help Barrett stay competitive. In total, outside groups reported spending at least $30 million in Wisconsin state elections last year, though millions more were likely spent on “issue ads” that went unreported.

Funds from the D.C.-based headquarters of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the Service Employees International Union and the National Education Association teachers’ union moved between several nonprofits and state-level committees before being spent.

Those groups include Planned Parenthood, the League of Conservation Voters and the immigrant-rights organization Voces De La Frontera, according to state and Department of Labor records.

The outside funding that helped Walker took similarly circuitous routes. The RGA reported spending $9.4 million helping Walker win the recall election, making it the biggest single outside spender of that election.

Walker beat Barrett 53 percent to 46 percent.

Union comeback

In January 2012, on the second anniversary of the Citizens United decision, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka issued a statement saying the case “seriously undermined our democracy.”

“The Citizens United ruling further tilted the playing field in favor of the 1 percent and against the 99 percent whose voices are being drowned out by excessive corporate spending and influence,” Trumka said.

But unions were among the organizations that took best advantage of the deregulated environment in state-level races last year.

Union-funded outside groups helped Democratic governors win close contests in Montana and Washington. And Democrats took control of the state House in Colorado and both chambers in Maine and Minnesota. In those states, Democratic candidates received significant help from outside groups funded largely by wealthy individuals and national unions.

Colorado is ground zero for this model of liberal-leaning outside spending.

It began in 2004 after four wealthy liberals — tech entrepreneur Tim Gill, heiress Pat Stryker, Democratic Congressman Jared Polis, and former gubernatorial candidate Rutt Bridges — helped organize and fund a network of progressive nonprofits with a goal of turning Colorado state politics blue. By 2008, Democrats dominated all levels of government in Colorado, despite there being a near-even split among registered voters.

“It’s kind of like a venture capital model,” says former Republican state Rep. Rod Witwer. He co-authored a book called The Blueprint: How the Democrats Won Colorado (and Why Republicans Everywhere Should Care), which detailed how a small group of donors helped reshape Colorado politics and created a model that has spread to several other states.

Witwer says Colorado’s liberal-leaning donors had “perfected the art” of influencing state elections through nonprofits prior to the Citizens United decision, which “just opened a few avenues that weren’t available.”

America Votes, a national liberal nonprofit group backed largely by unions, was active in several state-level races last year, including in Colorado. Its spokesman John Neurohr says state-level coalitions around the country work on the same premise: “that to win we must be coordinated and collaborative.”

In 2012, more than 60 percent of the $7.4 million reported in Colorado was controlled by three Democrat-supporting groups — the Colorado Accountable Government Alliance, the Coalition for Colorado’s Future and the Community Information Project. These groups were largely funded by national labor groups and Gill.

Gill did not respond to a request for comment.

Republican House candidate Brian Watson says he was targeted by negative TV ads, mailers and even a plane pulling a banner on Election Day accusing him of not paying his taxes.

“They threw everything but the kitchen sink at us, then they ripped the sink out of the wall and threw it at us,” said Watson, who lost a close election.

As in Wisconsin, it’s challenging to follow all the spending by national unions.

AFSCME, for instance, gave more than $100,000 each to the Colorado Accountable Government Alliance, the Coalition for Colorado’s Future and the Community Information Project. Among other large contributors to these groups were AFSCME-backed organizations like America Votes and a Boston-based nonprofit called the Fair Share Alliance, which Labor Department records show received $200,000 from AFSCME in 2012.

The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC), which works to elect down-ballot Democrats, also contributed $220,000 to Colorado’s outside spending groups. AFSCME was the DLCC’s biggest single donor in 2012, just as it was for the DGA.

Parts of the Colorado model have been replicated on a national scale with the Democracy Alliance, a clearinghouse for liberal causes that coordinates giving from 100 or so wealthy individuals as well as from national unions.

Members of the little-known group, whose donors include billionaire George Soros (whose foundation provides funding to the Center for Public Integrity) and Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, gave heavily to help re-elect President Obama last year.


In Minnesota, liberal donor Alida Messinger (a former Center for Public Integrity donor) and national labor unions helped Democrats take control of both the House and Senate.

The largest-spending non-party outside group was Alliance for a Better Minnesota, which spent more than $1.9 million. The group was funded by two other outside groups, WIN Minnesota and the 2012 Fund, whose biggest funders were wealthy individuals and organized labor.

Messinger, who founded WIN Minnesota, donated at least $850,000 to outside groups during the 2012 election cycle. Messinger is an heiress to the Rockefeller family’s Standard Oil fortune and the ex-wife of Minnesota Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton. National unions contributed at least $465,000 to Minnesota’s outside groups, while Colorado’s Tim Gill donated $75,000 to WIN Minnesota.

The progressive groups built on their success from 2010, when they helped Dayton win the governor’s race. In that campaign, Alliance for a Better Minnesota not only ran hard-hitting ads highlighting Republican candidate Tom Emmer’s decades-old DUI arrests, but also helped put a damper on corporate-funded outside groups.

After the Citizens United decision in early 2010, Republicans were given greater latitude to strike back in Minnesota.

Previously the state allowed unions to spend from their treasuries on outside spending groups while corporations could not. In 2010, corporations put large donations into MN Forward, an outside group that was working to help Emmer get elected.

Target targeted

Citing Emmer’s opposition to gay marriage, Alliance for Better Minnesota helped organize a protest that summer against Minneapolis-based Target for giving $150,000 to MN Forward. The ensuing uproar led Target’s CEO Gregg Steinhafel to issue an apology and may have chilled future corporate donations to outside groups in Minnesota and around the country.

“I don’t think corporations spent as much as they could have [in the 2012 election],” said David Schultz, a professor and campaign finance expert at Hamline University School of Law. “Simply because the backlash was so significant, it dissuaded other corporations from getting involved.”

Business-backed outside groups frequently cite the Target example to explain why corporations aren’t giving as much to outside spending groups as critics of the Citizens United ruling have feared.

“Businesses don’t like enemies; organized labor on the other hand… doesn’t seem particularly concerned about that,” said Scott Hawkins, who ran a pro-business outside spending organization in Alaska, where a union-funded group was the largest spender in last year’s elections.

Unions counter that businesses do make major donations to political entities — they just do so in secret. For example, donations to the nonprofit U.S. Chamber of Commerce are not required to be reported.

Keith Downey, the current head of the Minnesota Republican Party, was one of the biggest targets of outside group spending last year. Downey said that despite raising a large campaign war chest, he couldn’t come close to competing with the outside groups. He said these groups sent out dozens of mailers attacking him in the final weeks of the campaign.

“You don’t have the ability to respond, you just don’t,” says Downey. “You do in the end feel like you’re dwarfed by the outside influence.”

In Maine, Democrats took a similar tack — the party took control of both the House and Senate with the help of billionaire hedge fund manager Donald Sussman and organized labor. Sussman donated more than $600,000 to groups supporting Democrats.

The Committee to Rebuild Maine’s Middle Class was the largest non-party independent spending group. Its biggest donors include Sussman, AFSCME and the National Education Association (NEA).

Outside spending totaled $3.7 million in Maine last year, a state record for legislative races according to the Bangor Daily News.

Biggest spender

Despite the gains by Democrats, the single most prolific source of funds used in outside spending campaigns, according to the Center’s analysis, was the Republican Governors Association. The RGA was responsible for at least $34 million of the $209 million in outside spending in the 38 states that were subject to the Center’s analysis.

Some of the RGA’s biggest donors in 2012 were conservative billionaires who were also active in federal races.

Adelson and his family were the top donors to super PACs in the 2012 election, shelling out $93 million. Adelson and his wife gave the RGA $2 million. The late Texas homebuilder Bob Perry gave $2.5 million in 2012. Billionaire hedge fund manager Paul Singer gave $1.25 million, and David Koch gave $1 million.

The RGA’s total spending was $60 million in 2012, according to IRS records, nearly three times what it was in 2008.

It was the single biggest source of outside spending in Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Washington, and North Carolina. It was also likely the biggest spender in Montana, but the state’s lax disclosure requirements make that impossible to verify using public records.

The RGA, and the rival DGA are unincorporated nonprofits that report to the IRS, but are largely unregulated by the Federal Election Commission. They were able to accept unlimited donations from individuals, unions and corporations even before the Citizens United decision, but were technically limited in how and where they could spend their money in some states. The high court’s decision has changed all that.

Besides Walker’s victory, the RGA was also able to claim victory in North Carolina.

GOP control

In the Tar Heel State, Republican Pat McCrory easily defeated Democrat Walter Dalton with the help of several outside groups, including the RGA, which spent more than $5 million in the race for governor. A group backed by the DGA and the NEA spent $2.6 million trying to help Dalton.

The race was never close and both the RGA and the DGA pulled spending on TV ads in the final weeks. Citizens United made it easier for both groups to operate in the state, as the ban on corporate and union funds for outside spending groups went away.

McCrory became North Carolina’s first Republican governor elected since 1988 and was the only member of his party to win an open governor’s seat last year. His victory helped Republicans cement control of all three branches of government.

One of the most closely watched races last year was for the state Supreme Court, where outside groups spent more than $2.6 million helping Justice Paul Newby retain his seat and maintain a conservative 4-3 advantage on the high court bench.

Outside groups favoring Newby outspent those supporting his opponent Sam Ervin IV by about 35 to 1. One of the ads paid for by an outside group attacked Ervin as untrustworthy.

“As far as I know,” Ervin told the Center for Public Integrity, “there had never been an attack ad in a North Carolina judicial race.”

One of the biggest sources of cash for outside groups active in North Carolina’s judicial races was the Washington, D.C.-based Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC), which spent about $1.2 million to help Newby.

The RSLC is like the RGA’s little brother: a D.C.-based group funded largely by corporate donors that works to elect down-ballot Republicans in state elections. Its chairman is Ed Gillespie, former chairman of the Republican National Committee and close associate of Karl Rove.

Gillespie and Rove, former political strategists for President George W. Bush, co-founded American Crossroads, a well-funded, high-profile super PAC. The RSLC’s president, Chris Jankowski, is a former insurance and tobacco lobbyist.

‘Tort reform’ backers

The RSLC’s biggest donors in 2012 were nonprofits that support so-called tort reform legislation, or efforts to limit damages paid in civil lawsuits. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform was the RSLC’s single biggest donor in 2012, giving $3.5 million.

The nonprofit American Future Fund was the RSLC’s second biggest contributor in 2012, giving nearly $1.2 million. The Iowa-based “social welfare” group has received millions from groups associated with the Koch brothers.

The California Fair Political Practices Commission recently said that the American Future Fund was part of an illegal scheme to circumvent state disclosure laws involving an anti-union ballot measure last year. The Kochs have denied contributing to that effort. The American Future Fund did not respond to requests for comment.

The American Justice Partnership, a pro-tort reform nonprofit, was the third biggest donor to the RSLC at $1.1 million. Neither the Chamber nor the American Justice Partnership is required to disclose its donors.

Several state legislative races in North Carolina were also flooded with large amounts of outside cash. They helped Republicans gain a three-fifths majority in the House to go along with a similar supermajority in the Senate.

Since taking over, Republicans have lowered taxes, cut unemployment benefits, added restrictions for women seeking abortions, cut limits on carrying guns in public places and enacted a voter ID law, which is now the subject of a Justice Department lawsuit.

Total one-party control in statehouses is becoming more common. The 2012 election left only three split state legislatures in the country — Iowa, New Hampshire and Kentucky. The last time the number was so low was 1944, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Arkansas was another Southern state victory for Republican-supporting outside groups. Both chambers flipped from Democratic control to Republican control for the first time since Reconstruction. The election also completed the Republican takeover of state legislatures in the South.

Judging by mailers and ads, outside groups were extremely active in the Arkansas election, though you can’t tell from official state filings. Reports indicate $460,000 in spending, including just over $230,000 by Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform.

The Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity and the 60 Plus Association were both active as was the Faith and Freedom Coalition, whose founder is the prominent social conservative political consultant Ralph Reed.

Arkansas’ lax disclosure laws allowed these groups to avoid having to disclose how much they were spending by running ads and circulating campaign literature that did not tell the audience to vote for or against a candidate.

One Americans for Prosperity mailer, for instance, asked why a targeted candidate was “raising our cost of living” and urged the reader to call the lawmaker “and tell him how you feel about raising prices on Arkansas families.”

The state’s Democratic Party tried to fight back against the group by producing a TV ad starring Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe.

“A Virginia group is using secret money to meddle in our election,” Beebe said in the ad.

Dark money leads to AG success

Republican-backing groups also had success helping to elect GOP attorneys general in Montana and West Virginia, which both elected Democratic governors last year.

The RSLC reported spending $108,000 to Montana state election officials to help its preferred candidate, Tim Fox, win the Republican primary race for attorney general.

But the group was not required to say how much it spent in the general election because the ads it ran did not specifically urge voters to support or oppose a candidate.

Pam Bucy, Fox’s Democratic opponent, says her campaign collected information from local TV and radio stations showing that the RSLC purchased more than $580,000 worth of ad time for the general election. The ads praised Fox for opposing Obamacare.

Fox and Bucy raised a combined $750,000 for their own campaigns, according to the NIMSP; Fox beat Bucy by 35,000 votes.

“When you look at how close my election was, I think it had a dramatic effect,” Bucy said. “I think it denigrates our system; I don’t think it was a clean or fair election.”

In West Virginia, Patrick Morrisey became the state’s first Republican attorney general in 80 years thanks to heavy spending by outside groups.

A former Capitol Hill aide who went on to have a lucrative career as a lobbyist for pharmaceutical companies, Morrisey was helped by more than $2.1 million spent by two nonprofits, according to state records, that don’t reveal their donors, the Northern Virginia-based Center for Individual Freedom and the American Future Fund, the Iowa-based group with ties to the Koch brothers.

Making bank, win or lose

Among the clear winners in last year’s elections: political consultants.

Citizens United prompted new spending and new business in federal races that many firms are finding can apply to the state level as well,” says Brad Chism, a Democratic political consultant based in Mississippi, whose former firm did direct mail for a number of outside groups in state contests last year.

Much of the outside money flowed from D.C.-based groups to ambiguously named local committees and then back to D.C. where it went into the coffers of big political consulting firms — many of which are active in presidential and other federal races.

Firms based around D.C. were paid nearly $59 million, more than a quarter of all outside spending identified by in the Center investigation.

The biggest beneficiary, however, was in California.

Target Enterprises, a Los Angeles media buying firm, collected nearly $19 million and was the preferred vendor for the RGA. That’s $2 million more than what the firm made off of federal super PACs last year. Nick Ayers, who was executive director of the RGA until early 2011, is a partner at the firm.

Waterfront Strategies and Great American Media, part of D.C.-based Democratic political consulting giant GMMB, combined collected more than $17 million. The D.C.-based firm was paid $81 million in the 2012 election for federal work by several union and progressive super PACs, according to a previous Center report.

Delacey Skinner, a senior vice president at the firm, noted that totals for media buying firms appear large because they include what the firms spent purchasing airtime on TV stations.

One of AFSCME’s favorite media buying firms was the Campaign Group, a Philadelphia-based concern that was paid at least $9.8 million by state-level outside groups last year. When AFSCME’s longtime political director Larry Scanlon announced his retirement last year, he told The Hill he was going to be doing consulting work for the Campaign Group.

A complete view of all the outside spending may never be available. Most state disclosure laws are weaker than what the federal government requires, allowing groups to run overtly political ads without ever having to report the spending.

In Michigan, for example, outside groups officially reported spending $4 million. But a local watchdog combed through records filed at local TV stations and found that the state parties and other outside groups spent at least $18 million on local TV ads in the run-up to the election.

A full picture of the RGA’s spending in Montana is not available. Montana’s campaign finance regulators did not require the RGA to file a state-specific report because it already included the expenditures in its federal filings — although those reports do not include specifics.

New Jersey, Virginia and beyond

Back in New Hampshire, there’s plenty of frustration with how important outside groups have become in state politics, and how they are often behind the most negative ads. Even those on the winning side are concerned.

“They really can be pretty nasty, there’s really no other way to say it,” says Kathy Sullivan, the Hassan advisor and former head of the state Democratic Party. The money is “gross” and so is the lack of disclosure, she says.

Sullivan says she’s seen little appetite on either side of the aisle to curb the influence of outside groups or make their donors more transparent.

Meanwhile, outside groups played outsized roles in state-level elections held earlier this month in New Jersey and Virginia.

In New Jersey, at least $35 million was spent by outside groups on the gubernatorial and legislative races according to the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission, a new record the agency’s executive director called “mind-boggling.”

“It’s a whole new world in New Jersey politics,’’ Jeff Brindle said in a statement.

Union-backed outside groups spent heavily to ensure strong Democratic control of the legislature as a bulwark against Gov. Chris Christie, the popular Republican governor who won re-election.

Outside spending groups reported spending a little more than $3.4 million in Virginia, according to data from the Virginia Public Access Project. But with candidates allowed to receive unlimited donations from businesses and unions, national groups gave millions directly.

The RGA was the single biggest contributor to failed Republican candidate Ken Cuccinelli while the DGA was the top donor to the winner, Democrat Terry McAuliffe.

That’s just a taste of what’s expected next year.

In 2014, there are 36 governorships up for grabs — including in New Hampshire, where governors serve two-year terms.

This story was produced by Alan Suderman and Ben Wieder of the Center for Public Integrity. Rachel Baye contributed to this report. The Center for Public Integrity is a non-profit, independent investigative news outlet.


Center for Public Integrity

The Center for Public Integrity seeks to counter the corrosive effects of inequality by holding powerful interests accountable and equipping the public with knowledge to drive change. The Center is an independent, nonpartisan and nonprofit news organization dedicated to investigating systems and circumstances that contribute to inequality in our country.
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