Political organizations working to influence the 2016 elections outside the party or official campaign structure had spent more than $25.1 million as of Sept. 21. That’s an increase of more than 34 percent over their counterparts at this point in the 2014 midterm elections — and a five-fold leap over their outlays by this date in the last presidential cycle, a Center for Responsive Politics review of Federal Election Commission data shows.
If any type of group is in vogue, it’s the “single-candidate” committee, according to FEC data, and that means a boon for conservative groups in terms of sheer spending power. Of the 40 organizations that have spent the most so far in the 2016 cycle — a list that includes political nonprofits, super PACs and business associations — more than half are dedicated to one candidate and one race. The same is true of the top 20 biggest spenders, which includes 11 single-candidate groups.
The rise of single-candidate operations gives conservative organizations an edge in a presidential race marked by a large crop of Republican presidential candidates. Of the 20 biggest spenders, just one has a liberal viewpoint: the establishment-Democrat-backing Senate Majority PAC.
In 2013, back when single-candidate groups spent just under $2.7 million before September, 14 of the top 20 biggest spenders had supported liberal candidates or opposed conservative ones.