Record spending by independent groups largely defined how the 2012 elections were fought, but the money had no discernible impact on the outcome of most contests, according to an early analysis of ballot results and expenditures by The Washington Post.
A clutch of conservative billionaires and privately held corporations fueled nearly $1 billion in spending by super PACs and nonprofit groups this cycle, unleashing a wave of attack ads unrivaled in U.S. history. Yet Republican groups and their donors failed to achieve their two overarching goals--to unseat President Obama and return the U.S. Senate to the control of the GOP.
In the Senate, Republicans lost ground, pouring well over $100 million in outside money into a half-dozen seats that went to Democrats. In the presidential race, GOP nominee Mitt Romney and his allies spent more than twice as much as John McCain in 2008, but only took back red-leaning Indiana and North Carolina for their trouble.
Even in the House, where last-minute surges of cash would seem to stand a good chance of swinging races, GOP money groups struck out repeatedly, according to the Post analysis. In 26 of the most competitive House races, Democratic candidates and their allies were outspent in the final months of the race but pulled out a victory anyway. That compares to 11 competitive races where Republicans were outspent and won.