So-called dark money funded nearly 44 percent of outside groups’ television ads in Senate and House races so far this year, according to an analysis by USA Today of Kantar Media data.
Of the nearly 107,000 ads coming from outside groups this year through July 8, about 47,000 of those TV spots are from groups that aren’t required to disclose donors.
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Two groups affiliated with the donor network of conservative brothers Charles and David Koch are in the top five of dark money spending on congressional races: Americans for Prosperity and Concerned Veterans for America. Those groups have been mainly focused on spending millions in Senate races where Democratic incumbents are up for reelection in states that President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Warren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Esper orders ‘After Action Review’ of National Guard’s role in protests MORE won.
The other groups in the top five are One Nation, an issue advocacy group linked to Senate GOP leadership; Vote Vets Action Fund, a Democratic group that aims to elect veterans to office; and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
In Missouri’s Senate race, data from Kantar found that 42 percent of ads come from dark money groups. Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillMissouri county issues travel advisory for Lake of the Ozarks after Memorial Day parties Senate faces protracted floor fight over judges amid pandemic safety concerns Amash on eyeing presidential bid: ‘Millions of Americans’ want someone other than Trump, Biden MORE (D-Mo.), who’s running for reelection in a state where Trump won by double-digits, is expected to face state Attorney General Josh Hawley (R) in November.
And in Wisconsin’s Senate race, an analysis shows that 46 percent of ads are from dark money. Kantar found that Concerned Veterans for America has run the most ads in that race, where Sen. Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinBiden launches program to turn out LGBTQ vote We need a ‘9-1-1’ for mental health — we need ‘9-8-8’ Democrats introduce bill to rein in Trump’s power under Insurrection Act MORE (D-Wis.) is running for reelection.
Overall, almost 386,000 TV ads for House and Senate campaigns have been on air from January to July, which includes spots from candidates and outside groups. That’s an uptick from the 2014 midterms, which saw more than 355,000 broadcast ads running during that same time period.
Democrats need to flip 23 seats to regain the House majority.
But the party has a tougher challenge in the Senate. They’re largely playing defense and protecting 10 seats in states Trump won, despite Republicans’ slim 51-49 seat majority.