The NRSC’s strategy of spending its money early meant the party was being vastly outspent by its Democratic counterpart late. The NRSC had spent $31 million between August and September, while the DSCC spent just $13 million. But beginning in October, the NRSC had reserved just $10 million in late airtime — while the DSCC had reserved $44 million in ads. The NRSC took out a $15 million line of credit for last-minute spending, but its hope was that outside groups would fill in the rest.
“The disparity between the two committees is unlike anything I’ve seen since I started doing this,” said one longtime GOP official.
McConnell took the lead in warning donors about what was to come. Though he could not directly solicit contributions for the Senate Leadership Fund, run by his former chief of staff, Steven Law, McConnell sent signals, Law said, that the GOP’s leading outside group needed late cash. Last-minute donations gave the group the ability to dump more than $35 million into advertising in crucial states.
All told, the Senate Leadership Fund (SLF) and One Nation raised and spent $165 million on behalf of Senate Republicans. Of that, the SLF spent almost $38 million on television spots in just the last 14 days of the race.At Morning Consult a few months ago, Reid Wilson provided some background:
As Republicans prepared to assume control of the Senate a little more than a year ago, incoming Majority Leader Mitch McConnell delivered a clear message to the members of his conference: Don’t set up your own super PAC.
McConnell, a keen student of politics, wanted Republicans to follow a model established by Senate Democrats, who steer their big donors to a single outside group. Doing so, he told fellow Republicans, would allow the single entity to raise and spend money in the best interest of the new majority, keep down costs and coordinating messages across the country.
At a meeting held at the NRSC, the Senate GOP’s campaign arm, McConnell and his top political adviser, Josh Holmes, told Republican senators they should steer big donors to One Nation and the Senate Leadership Fund, two groups tied to the American Crossroads network of organizations.
In previous cycles, “there were a number of super PACs, all of which complicated the broader messaging that would have helped the candidates,” Holmes said in an interview. “Donors asked that that be fixed for this cycle.”
The man who heads the two groups, Steven Law — like Holmes, a former McConnell chief of staff — would use their monetary power to keep vendor costs down and prevent the kind of rampant profit-taking that has plagued some candidate-specific super PACs. They could also ensure that Republican efforts to keep the Senate would not be hampered by multiple outside groups stepping over each other and muddling message