Election 2012: Super PACs and the 11th hour cash-dash



In the past four days, outside groups have spent more than $1.8 million in Montana’s Senate race. As if we needed another reminder that election 2012 is coming down to the wire.

Screenshot from Family Faith Freedom Funds Montana ad.
  • Screenshot from Family Faith Freedom Fund's Montana ad.

The usual suspects are certainly chief among those dropping millions on 11th-hour ads, canvassing and phone calls: Crossroads GPS, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Freedomworks for America, Patriot Majority USA. But with less than a week before the polls open, new names are popping up on independent expenditure reports left and right. Just yesterday, the Fair Share Alliance PAC disclosed a $119,760 ad buy supporting incumbent Sen. Jon Tester—the super PAC’s first dip into Montana. The Faith Family Freedom Fund announced $18,500 on Tuesday for cable ads supporting challenger Rep. Denny Rehberg—similarly their first in the state. Super PACs and 501(c)s are frantically emptying their pockets and using these last few days to swing undecided voters their way.

That mad cash-dash has even spawned a host of brand-spanking-new super PACs. Keenan Steiner at the Sunlight Foundation wrote about this development Tuesday, leading off the story with a tidbit about Freedom Fund North America. The conservative super PAC formed on Oct. 15—just 10 days before the last pre-election disclosure reports were due. Freedom Fund North America promptly targeted two familiar Democratic candidates: North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp and (yeah, you guessed it) Montana’s Jon Tester. The group reported a $495,000 expenditure Oct. 26 for media production and advertising opposing Tester. Oh, and there's no website offering any specifics on what, exactly, Freedom Fund North America represents.

The story gets crazier. While super PACs are required to disclose their donors, a level of transparency that issue-oriented 501(c)(4)s have successfully dodged, the report covering Freedom Fund North America donations after Oct. 17 isn’t due until after the election—Dec. 6, to be precise. Super PACs old and new will be spending wicked crazy amounts of money up to and during Nov. 6, and we won’t know where that money came from until a month after the election.

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