October 15, 2010 11:33AM

Free Speech Means More Equal Speech

You might have gotten the impression that spending by outside groups in the current election cycle will fund a “giant bullhorn” for Republican candidates in the current election cycle while Democrats and liberals will have to whisper.

Yet the Rothenberg Political Report finds:

Throughout the election cycle, the National Republican Congressional Committee trailed the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in available money by at least a 2‐​to‐​1 ratio.

A detailed story in the Wall Street Journal summarizes “the Democratic Party and candidates had raised a total of $1.25 billion so far for the election. The comparable GOP figure is $1.1 billion.”

The Democrats enjoy, in other words, a $150 million dollar advantage, if we look only at party fundraising.

Now consider the outside groups:

In total, outside conservative groups—such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Action Network and American Crossroads—could spend more than $300 million on TV advertisements, campaign mailings and other efforts to elect Republicans to Congress this year. Outside Democratic groups, by contrast, plan to spend about $100 million on those activities.

But don’t forget the labor unions:

The largest labor unions say they will spend $200 million combined, but most of their focus will be on rallying union voters.

I conclude that the outside GOP groups will raise almost exactly as much as outside Democratic groups and the labor unions combined. The Democratic Party, however, will still enjoy a significant fundraising advantage over the Republican Party.

The Republican outside groups thus tend to level what would have been, absent their activities, a very unequal playing field in 2010.

I am not certain whether this closing of what would have been a huge Democratic fundraising advantage has anything to do with all of the complaints about “secret groups undermining democracy.” What do you think?