Friday, December 3, 2010


Arizona's Politics tried to pay close attention to the flow of national spending in Arizona's competitive congressional races during the campaign, through our "Following Money In Arizona's Politics" series.

Congressional District 7, encompassing much of southern Arizona, received quite a bit of that attention in the last three weeks. It was supposed to be a walkover for Democratic incumbent Raul Grijalva as he defeated political newcomer Ruth McClung. After a couple of weeks of Republicans talking up the race as possible upset material, the GOP-philic groups started putting money into the race.  On October 15, Arizona's Politics documented the first (and biggest) salvo, by "Americans for Tax Reform."  That set the wheels in motion for more attacks and counter-attacks.

While the young McClung did not win, she - and the GOP-philic groups - certainly did get Grijalva's - and the Dems' - attention.  The official canvass shows that the final tally was 79,935 (50.3%) to 70,385 (44.2%).  (Independent Harley Meyer and Libertarian George Keane each pulled about 4,000 votes.)

CD7 is the second in our series of post-election reviews of where the money came from. (Most of the information is collected from the Center for Responsive Politics - which compiles the required FEC filings. However, totals here may differ from CRP's due to occasionally-confusing coding by the outside group's filings; Arizona's Politics has attempted to catch those (in?)advertent errors. One more note: outside spending reports should be FINAL, as Independent Expenditure groups were required by law to file with the FEC within a day or two of spending; however, post-election reports from the candidates are not yet due. We will produce a final report to include ALL spending on each campaign.

Independent expenditures supporting and opposing the candidates in CD7 only took off in the last 2 1/2 weeks of the campaign.  When the dust settled (and the mud splatted), Democratic incumbent Grijalva was the beneficiary of $850,000 of outside spending, and Republican challenger McClung watched as $586,000 was spent on her behalf. 

As noted above, Americans for Tax Reform threw the opening fistful (of dollars, of mud) when they spent $230,184 to run a TV ad in the Tucson market titled "Working" (watch).  Arizona's Politics Fact Checked it out at a respectable "B+" (which earned some criticism).  The much-discussed U.S. Chamber of Commerce added $161,215 opposing Grijalva, and Sen. John McCain jumped in late with $102,962 worth of advertising and robo-calls. 

Other Republican-philic IE committees involved were: Americans for Limited Government ($22,499), FreedomWorks ($24,534), and Protecting America's Retirees ($29,560).  Smaller actors were: 60-Plus Association ($6,606), Susan B. Anthony List ($2,933), Revere America ($2,901), the NRA ($1,482), Independent Women's Voice ($1,414) and the National Right to Life ($19).

The cavalry riding in for Grijalva was led by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee ("DCCC") ($178,154), America's Families First ($302,592), and (Spanish-language ad) ($145,605).  Behind them were several groups that seemed to devote some of their resources to paying staffers working on Grijalva's behalf: Campaign for Community Change ($108,245), SEIU (union) ($65,000), League of Conservation Voters ($29,725) and Defenders of Wildlife ($18,136).  Smaller actors were: Blue America PAC ($1,998), the Humane Society of the U.S. ($54) and the Sierra Club ($10).

One other interesting note: according to the Center for Responsive Politics, 72% of the GOP IE money in this race came from groups that do not disclose their donors.  In light of the Supreme Court Citizens United decision, that money can come from corporations.  Only 26% of the Democrat IE dollars came from such groups - and 1/3 of that was from undisclosed union members, not corporations.

BOTTOM LINE:  This was a fascinating close-up look at a successful effort by one party to "expand the playing field" and forcing the other to spend money defending a previously-seemingly-safe seat.  Yes, of course Grijalva opened the door with his support of an SB1070-related boycott, and the national climate made it an easy call for the GOP.  But, the Republican-philic groups spent just over half-a-million dollars and prompted the Democrats (and Democrat-philics) to pour in $850,000 that they would have preferred to spend elsewhere. 

And, although the final figures are not yet in for candidates' committees' spending, it is likely that Grijalva enjoyed nearly a 2-1 spending advantage over McClung.  Yet, he barely collected a majority of the votes.

We welcome your comments about this post. Or,if you have something unrelated on your mind, please e-mail to info-at-arizonaspolitics-dot-com. Thanks.

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