Outside political groups, already big players in this year’s GOP presidential battle, have started to train their firepower on Senate and House races. Third-party organizations, including political parties and super PACs that can raise and spend unlimited corporate and union money, have pumped nearly $9 million into last-minute advertising and other independent spending to support or oppose congressional candidates in this election cycle, Federal Election Commission records show.
In Utah, FreedomWorks for America — a Washington super PAC aligned with the small-government Tea Party movement — is working to oust six-term GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch and is spending money to recruit and train activists to oppose his renomination at the state’s Republican convention this spring. Another Washington-based group, the pro-business Club for Growth Action, has spent more than $570,000 on TV commercials to shape Senate races in Wisconsin and Texas and to oppose a third lawmaker, Michigan Rep. Fred Upton, the GOP chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Spending by deep-pocketed super PACs in congressional races could “skew election results” and influence federal policy, said Richard Hasen, a campaign-finance expert who teaches law at the University of California-Irvine. “It’s easy for someone with a couple million dollars to influence the outcome of a House race,” he said. Once elected, he added, lawmakers are “just as likely to feel beholden to the large contributors to a super PAC as they are to people who contribute to their campaigns.”