Campaign Spending Tops $17.5 Million in Tight Pennsylvania Race

March 13, 2018 Ken Doyle

This analysis was first available to Bloomberg Government subscribers.

Campaign spending in a pivotal special election in Pennsylvania reached more than $17.5 million on the eve of Election Day, with most of the money pouring in from Republican and conservative groups supporting GOP House candidate Rick Saccone.

That’s the second-highest price tag for a House race in a string of high-spending special elections since President Donald Trump took office. A race for a House seat in suburban Atlanta last year shattered records with nearly $60 million in total campaign spending.

The winner of the March 13 special election will succeed Tim Murphy (R-Pa.), who resigned last October. Trump carried the southwestern Pennsylvania district by 20 percent, but polls show a close race between Saccone and Democrat Conor Lamb. As with several other recent special elections, the contest has taken on national significance as Democrats see it as a possible harbinger of their ability to flip control of Congress in the upcoming midterm elections in November. Trump held a campaign rally outside of Pittsburgh over the weekend to try and pump up enthusiasm for Saccone.

Lamb’s campaign committee has outraised Saccone’s by 4-to-1, but total candidate spending of almost $5 million has been surpassed by money from outside groups. Outside spending reached more than $12.5 million by March 12, according to a Bloomberg Government review of independent expenditure reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.

The latest reports showed a continuing pattern of pro-Saccone outside spending overwhelming pro-Lamb spending by a factor of about 10-to-1. The leading spenders include Republican Party committees: the National Republican Congressional Committee, which has spent $3.5 million and the Republican National Committee, with $1.3 million. In addition, the GOP-aligned super PAC Congressional Leadership Fund has spent $3.4 million and the pro-Trump super PAC America First Action has spent $1.1 million.

Spending by groups supporting Lamb has reached more than $1.5 million and includes a late infusion of more than $300,000 by the Democratic-leaning nonprofit A video ad sponsored by the group criticizes Saccone’s tenure in the Pennsylvania legislature and supports Lamb, a Marine Corps veteran and former federal prosecutor. “To fix Washington, send in the Marine,” the ad says.

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