This Week in Dark Money: Nov. 9, 2012

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We’re proud to collaborate with Mother Jones in sharing insightful journalism related to money and politics. We’ll be posting this weekly roundup every Friday. Share your thoughts about these must-read stories and always feel free to suggest your own in the comments section.

A quick look at the week that was in the world of political dark money


“The billionaire donors I hear are livid. There is some holy hell to pay.”

— A Republican operative speaking to the Huffington Post about Karl Rove, who “has a lot of explaining to do.” Rove’s super PAC American Crossroads and dark-money group Crossroads GPS spent at least $175 million, but just nine of the 30 candidates that Crossroads supported won. Rove, who claimed that Obama won reelection “by supressing the vote” and with the help of Hurricane Sandy, reportedly held a phone briefing with top donors on Thursday to explain Crossroads’ lack of success.



Rove wasn’t the only operative with a lot of explaining to do. Other conservative super PACs and dark money groups that spent a lot did not see great results at the ballot box. Meanwhile, some smaller liberal and labor groups saw respectable returns on their investments.


More than $57 million: The amount of disclosed donations from casino magnate and Gingrich-Romney supporter Sheldon Adelson and his wife Miriam. The Adelsons’ money got more mileage than Rove’s, but about 58 percent of the candidates it supported still lost. Asked by a Norwegian journalist how he thought his money had been spent, Adelson replied, “Paying bills. That’s how you spend money. Either that or become a Jewish husband — you spend a lot of money.”


Conservative super PACs had the clear money advantage throughout the 2012 election, but in the end it was an ad from the pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA Action that became the most effective campaign spot, according to TV analytics company Ace Metrix. The ad, “Stage,” was part of a nine-spot, $50 million buy in contested states hitting Romney’s record at Bain Capital. During the campaign, Republican pollster Frank Luntz told the Huffington Post‘s Howard Fineman that “that ad alone has killed Mitt Romney in Ohio.”


• Will Republican Mega-Donors Say Sayonara to Super PACs? Liberal bankrollers soured on partisan politics after the 2004 elections. Will Adelson and co. follow suit after 2012?
• Sen. Sherrod Brown Fights Off the Dark-Money Machine to Win in Ohio: Brown’s win puts Democrats that much closer to keeping their slim Senate majority.
• Sheldon Adelson Is Partying With Mitt Romney on Election Night: It’s the least Adelson could expect for his $53 million in pro-GOP donations this election cycle.
• 9 Incredible Campaign Money Stats: Some quick Election Day stats on Super PACs, dark money, and…Justin Bieber?!
• California’s Biggest “Campaign Money Laundering” Scheme, Revealed — Kinda: A bitter fight in California to unmask a secretive donor ends with more questions than answers.
• Charts: How Much Have the Kochs Spent to Sway the Vote?: See how much the billionaire brothers have spent in your state — and why the size of their campaign to beat Obama is a mystery.
• A Dark Money Group’s Sketchy Origins Emerge: More details trickle out about the big donors behind a Montana-based nonprofit that’s fighting election spending limits.


• Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock, who unsuccessfully challenged the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, was elected governor despite a last-minute outside-money assault. Center for Public Integrity
• The US Chamber of Commerce was another major outside-spending loser this election. Washington Post
• And Sheldon Adelson wasn’t the only megadonor to back a score of losing candidates. Center for Public Integrity
• Even the anti-incumbent super-PAC Campaign for Primary Accountability had better luck than Karl Rove on Tuesday. Slate

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