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Some big money just didn’t work

Thursday, Nov 8, 2012

* The Sunlight Foundation took a look at the best and worst returns on investment for outside groups making independent expenditures. Here is their ist of the top spenders’ best ROI…

84% of $15,202,306 spent in the general election ended in the desired result.

70% of $14,318,192 spent in the general election ended in the desired result.

69% of $34,359,657 spent in the general election ended in the desired result.

69% of $6,072,693 spent in the general election ended in the desired result.

* The worst…

0% of $10,955,688 spent in the general election ended in the desired result.

1% of $103,559,672 spent in the general election ended in the desired result.

* Crossroads GPS had a 13% ROI

5% of $31,937,037 spent in the general election ended in the desired result.

5% of $23,613,532 spent in the general election ended in the desired result.

The NRA’s “Institute for Legislative Action” had a slightly better ROI than its “Political Victory Fund,” at 10.25 percent. The Now Or Never PAC, which played extensively in the Joe Walsh campaign had an ROI of just 14.3 percent. FreedomWorks, which also advertised against Tammy Duckworth, had an ROI of 24.5 percent.

On the other side, Planned Parenthood’s “Action Fund” had a 97.8 percent ROI.

* The 17th Congressional District made it into the top three IE races. The result…

IL-17 (House)
Total outside money: $8,843,981
General candidate fundraising: $4,233,575

Candidate // General election outside support // Candidate fundraising
**winner BUSTOS, CHERI (D) $4,289,889 $1,964,893
SCHILLING, ROBERT T. (R) (Incumbent) $4,543,956 $2,268,682

* The Sun-Times looked at the congressional races by dollars spent per vote. For instance, each vote Walsh won “cost” $70, including IEs. More

Bill Foster, who ousted longtime Republican Judy Biggert in the west suburban 11th Congressional District, won with the biggest margin, according to vote tallies, with 58 percent of the vote. It cost about $30 per vote for Foster, given the $4.3 million spent by or on his behalf and the 139,849 votes cast for him.

Spending on Biggert’s side exceeded $6.3 million. Ending up with 101,002 ballots cast for her, it averages out to $62 a vote.

Walsh’s challenger, Tammy Duckworth, was a relatively good investment. Duckworth’s totals meant $39 a vote with $4.7 million in spending and 120,774 votes. […]

The closest congressional race of the three was in the 10th Congressional District, where a combination of campaign and outside money added up to $7.5 million for Republican Bob Dold. Dold narrowly lost to challenger Brad Schneider, earning 128,129 votes. That comes out to about $58 per vote for Dold.

By comparison, about $3.9 million went in on Schneider’s side, and he tallied 130,676. That’s about $29 per vote.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - UISer - Thursday, Nov 8, 12 @ 9:24 am:

    0% of $10,955,688 spent in the general election ended in the desired result.”

    This just made my day. Thanks Sunlight Foundation!

  2. - wordslinger - Thursday, Nov 8, 12 @ 9:36 am:

    Karl Rove has the best gig in America. I wonder how many points he took on the buys, for those results?

  3. - Loop Lady - Thursday, Nov 8, 12 @ 9:38 am:

    NRA loses big! Thank you Rich for this delightful factoid. Can we run Karl Rove out of the country on a rail now? Karl who?

  4. - 312 - Thursday, Nov 8, 12 @ 9:42 am:

    I want to go work for American Crossroads so I can be completely wrong with every decision I make, but still make a boatload of money for it! Where do I sign???

  5. - Empty Chair - Thursday, Nov 8, 12 @ 9:54 am:

    It’s unfair to blame the funders, honestly. There’s a HUGE gap in talent between Democratic political consultants and republican ones. Karl Rove rarely makes ads any more, he is now largely a fundraiser and a numbers guy. He may be involved with buys, but the extent to which his groups are making huge buys nationally, I doubt he saw every ad.

    The reality is Democratic ad makers are more well versed in local polling and know what voters will be receptive to. Republican operatives are increasingly just making funny looking ads or ones that they think will win them Pollies. The targeting and effectiveness of Dem consultants is going to be overlooked by the financial warehouses who were paying them, but they deserve some credit as well.

  6. - Boone Logan Square - Thursday, Nov 8, 12 @ 10:01 am:

    *Insert joke about NRA’s poor aim here.*

    Anyone talk to Daddy Ricketts this week? Bet Rahm looks forward to the next round of haggling over Wrigley Field.

  7. - Bemused - Thursday, Nov 8, 12 @ 10:09 am:

    Nice to see Karl Rove and the NRA on the short side of things. My problem is I suspect those who gave them the money to throw around will continue to do so.

  8. - wordslinger - Thursday, Nov 8, 12 @ 10:12 am:

    From NYT:

    –Joe Ricketts, the owner of the Chicago Cubs, spent close to $13 million to bankroll a super PAC attacking Mr. Obama over federal spending.–

    Something to keep in mind when they make another run for taxpayer funding for Wrigley. Apparently, he has some disposable income laying around, and is down on government spending.

  9. - Arthur Andersen - Thursday, Nov 8, 12 @ 10:12 am:

    Regardless of what (tinfoil) hat Rove might be wearing, it’s no wonder that he almost vapor locked on Fox Election Night when they called it for Barack. Poor Megyn “with a Y” Kelly had to walk all the way back to Nerd Central in her C*M pumps to make sure the pollies got it right. Not their finest hour.

  10. - amalia - Thursday, Nov 8, 12 @ 10:49 am:

    NRA, you just made my day!!!!!

  11. - lake county democrat - Thursday, Nov 8, 12 @ 10:54 am:

    Sheldon Adelson went 0-for-6. As I keep harping on, gerrymandering is a bigger attack on voters than campaign finance issues. I’m happy that Walsh and Dold lost, but I know that for every Dem-gerrymandering Mike Madigan there’s 1.5 GOP-gerrymandering governors in other states like Texas.

  12. - Pot calling kettle - Thursday, Nov 8, 12 @ 10:54 am:

    I think the bottom line is that while both sides have lots of money, most of the groups on the winning side were also able to bring in people. SEIU is a perfect example of that, you see them knocking on doors and making calls. Crossroads, not so much.

  13. - The Captain - Thursday, Nov 8, 12 @ 11:08 am:

    Crossroads got a 1% return on $103 million? No words.

    There’s not a lot of upside to being the one to say this but … a lot of this overreaction is just Dems had a really good night and Republicans didn’t. I’m not sure that Republican operatives could have done a whole lot different that would have changed the outcome. In 2010 there was nothing worse than dealing with the *geniuses* born in 2008 who came to believe that elections are won with unlimited money, volunteers and voter enthusiasm, an environment that would apparently live forever. They were unbearable idiots. I’m guessing Tuesday spawned a new generation of unbearable idiot operatives on the Dem side.

  14. - ZC - Thursday, Nov 8, 12 @ 11:08 am:

    I’ve always said that the first step to reforming money in politics was to beat these outside spending groups silly.

    At the end of the day laws only go so far, you have to affect incentives. If the deep pockets get convinced that they’re pigeons and all they’re doing is buying Rove summer houses, then we’ll see some decline in the amount of money spent. 2012 was a good start in that regard.

  15. - PublicServant - Thursday, Nov 8, 12 @ 11:24 am:

    Plan B is just buy the Dems, guys…

  16. - Eileen left - Thursday, Nov 8, 12 @ 11:46 am:

    Rich guys don’t walk precincts working men and women do. Rich guys don’t volunteer to work in campaigns working men and women do. It just goes to show you that “money can’t buy you love”.

  17. - D.P. Gumby - Thursday, Nov 8, 12 @ 4:51 pm:

    The real ROI is in all the states where Repubs controlled state legislatures, like Indiana w/a Repub veto proof and Wisc Repub winning back State Sen. Repub now control more Govs. than in history. This will have far more impact for future.

  18. - mark walker - Thursday, Nov 8, 12 @ 4:57 pm:

    The star of election night IMO was Karl Rove, walking around with a little white board, explaining why Nate Silver and most pollsters, just didn’t understand Republican voters.

    So Karl the “political genius” blew millions and millions of his clients’ money, and got paid by Fox News.

    Rove, Bachman, Walsh, Cain, and Santorum should all fade away.

    The Edelmans, Trumps, Kochs and Bradleys of the world will never admit personal error, and will keep trying to buy us.

  19. - mcb - Thursday, Nov 8, 12 @ 6:13 pm:

    There’s a big issue with the ROI calculations. No matter who would’ve won, the numbers look the same, just flipped. Doesn’t mean bad buys. They don’t look at the total a candidate got. So 1 PAC spends on one losing candidate, maybe a total of 1 million. Then 10 PAC’s could’ve spent 1 billion on winners. The fact they went together could’ve altered election results. But despite the much bigger dollars, the winner looks like the better buy, despite costing 1000 times as much. A real study would be more like the sun times, dollars per votes. But also need to look at the percentage of the campaign fund made up by the group. Just because you spend a million on one candidate, it could only be 2 or 3 percent of what they got.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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