National Republican Congressional Committee the biggest loser among 2018 outside groups

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House Speaker Paul Ryan speaks at the National Republican Congressional Committee March Dinner (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Every election cycle, a handful of super PACs and party committees swing and miss, spending most of their millions in support of ultimately unsuccessful candidates.

The honor of “biggest loser” this general election cycle goes to the National Republican Congressional Committee, which spent just 25 percent of its money backing winning candidates or opposing losing ones. The party committee spent more than $2 million in negative ads against 14 different Democratic general election candidates — all but three won their races.

The Congressional Leadership Fund — a super PAC closely tied to the GOP House leadership and the cycle’s top overall outside spender — had a similarly tough night, spending only 32 percent of its money successfully. The group failed to fulfill its pledge to defend the House, spending more than $68 million in support of 24 Republican incumbents who would go on to lose their races.

Conversely, House Majority PAC — the super PAC associated with the Democratic House leadership — had a very good election night. Nearly 82 percent of the group’s money was spent against losers or for winners and its top 14-targeted Republicans were all defeated. It spent more than $39 million to elect 25 House Democratic challengers.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee also ended up with a stellar 77 percent success rate, with its top nine-targeted Republicans losing their races.

New York billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s super PACs were particularly successful in their support of House Democrats.

Independence USA PAC — funded almost entirely by Bloomberg — spent $22 million to help 14 Democratic challengers win their House races and had a 89.5 percent success rate on $37.5 million spent in the general election.

It was the only large super PAC to support Oklahoma 5th District Rep.-elect Kendra Horn in her upset victory, shelling out $429,664 days before the election. The super PAC heavily targeted the California 25th District race, aiding Rep.-elect Katie Hill with $4.5 million in positive ads and $568,856 in negative media against incumbent Rep. Steve Knight.

The Bloomberg-bankrolled League of Conservation Voters was also successful, with an 80 percent win rate, while Everytown for Gun Safety, another Bloomberg-funded group, had a near-perfect 99.9 percent success rate with its spending. Almost all of Everytown’s money backed Georgia 6th District Rep.-elect Lucy McBath, a former national spokesperson for the group.

One way to achieve a high success rate is to put all of the eggs in one basket. The most successful group among the top ten general election spenders was New Republican PAC, which spent almost all (96.8 percent) of its money backing Rick Scott’s Florida Senate campaign.

Other single-candidate super PACs did not fare as well, however. The second-biggest such group, DefendArizona, spent all of its money — $17.8 million in the general election — backing Arizona Senate candidate Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) and therefore ended up being the biggest spender with a zero percent success rate.

“Dark money” groups didn’t have their best election. Liberal political nonprofits VoteVets and Majority Forward — which heavily targeted Democratic Senate candidates — had success rates of just 34 and 42 percent, respectively.

Aiding big Republican victories in the Senate, America First Action did somewhat better, spending nearly 59 percent of its money successfully. However, it did spend more than $6 million supporting five unsuccessful House incumbents.

Other notably successful groups:

  • Human Rights Campaign ($2.1 million spent, 97.2 percent success) had the best track record of any group that spent on at least ten different races.
  • Among groups that spent at least $1 million on the general election, Republican Jewish Coalition ($1.7 million spent) was the only group to spend on multiple races and succeed in all of them.

Of the $1.07 billion in outside spending on the general election, 54.5 percent of it was successful (i.e., spent in favor of winning candidates or against losing candidates). That’s a slight increase from 2016 (48.1 percent) and 2014 (53.6 percent), but still, a fairly even split.

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