House Democratic primaries are drawing in record donations despite an expected loss in the midterm elections.
Super PACs and other nonprofit organizations have donated more than $53 million to House Democratic races as of Monday, according to OpenSecrets. This is nearly twice as much as in recent elections, where only $30 million was spent on primaries in 2018 and 2020.
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The majority of spending appears to be focused on districts that Democrats control, according to Politico. This seems to imply that the various ideological branches of the parties are attempting to compete for control of the party's priorities in 2022.
“There’s far, far more spending than we’ve ever seen before, and that’s for two reasons,” Democratic pollster Mark Mellman said. "One, because the number of competitive districts has declined dramatically, most members are now selected in primaries, so primaries become more important. Second, people looked at Ohio’s 11th special [in 2021] and said, ‘It’s possible to intervene and really make a difference.’”
Television ads have been a particular focus to date. At least $25.8 million has been spent on TV ads in the Democratic House primaries, according to the ad-tracking firm AdImpact. This is more than double the $10.4 million spent on ads for Democratic House primaries in 2020.
Donors have varied in focus, from industry lobbying groups to more progressive organizations such as the Working Families Party. One of the largest donors to date has been Protect Our Future, a super PAC primarily funded by Sam Bankman-Fried, a cryptocurrency billionaire and founder of the FTX cryptocurrency exchange platform. Protect Our Future has spent more than $22 million on candidates in seven states, according to the Federal Election Commission. The organization claimed it is attempting to fund "vocal advocates in Congress for pandemic prevention."
One of the most expensive districts to date was Oregon's 6th District, which was added to the state after the 2020 census. Political action committees have spent more than $13 million on the House Democratic primaries, as nine different Democratic candidates compete in the primaries for what some believe to be a fairly competitive race. There are also seven Republican candidates in the newly established district, but the candidates barely received $29,000 in outside spending.
The funding in the 6th District has primarily gone to Carrick Flynn, a Democratic candidate who claims to apply "effective altruism" to his policy approach. This includes recovering from COVID-19 and creating green jobs. Flynn's massive outpouring of donations primarily derives from Protect Our Future, which donated more than $11 million to his campaign. This has annoyed local Democratic leaders.
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The more progressive PACs have attempted to frame the increased spending as a response to their growing influence. “Our movement is very sophisticated, very coordinated, gaining traction, gaining momentum, and this cycle is awash with cash because they’re trying to stunt that momentum,” said Maurice Mitchell, national director of the Working Families Party. “There’s a very live debate inside of the Democratic Party caucus about the direction of this coalition. ... We’re experiencing the height of that debate.”
Election analysts favor Republicans winning the House.