Senate, House Races Boosted by Outside Money Lose More Than Win
(NEW YORK) -- If the super-rich tried to buy Senate and House seats in this election, they didn't have much luck, at least when it came to some of the most expensive U.S. congressional races.
Wealthy millionaires such as casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, Donald Trump and Dreamworks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg took advantage of the ability to contribute tens of thousands, even millions of dollars to congressional super PACs in 2012, with mixed results.
Of the 10 most expensive Senate races in the country, only three were won by the candidate who had the most well-heeled outside groups backing them, according to data from the Campaign Finance Institute analyzed by ABC News.
Preliminary results in the House seem to indicate no real advantage for the candidate with the outside money advantage.
Of the 46 races in 2012 where more than $2 million was spent, the candidate with the outside spending advantage lost 21 times and won 16 times, with nine races still outstanding by mid-afternoon Wednesday, according to the CFI data.
Take the Florida Senate race, which pitted incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson against Republican Rep. Connie Mack.
Super PACs supporting Mack spent $15 million backing his Senate bid, more than three times the spending by outside groups that supported winner Nelson. Taking all spending on the race into consideration -- candidate fundraising, party spending and outside groups -- Nelson was outspent by more than $4 million.
Mack lost the race despite the backing of several deep-pocketed Republican donors, including Adelson, who donated $2 million, and former managing general partner of the San Francisco Giants Peter Magowan, who donated $1,000 to a super PAC supporting Mack.
In both chambers, but especially the House, Democrats did more in 2012 to compete but not match the number of Republican races in which their candidate outspent their opponent.
The result might have been an effective "draw" in terms of how money affected some races, Michael Malbin of the non-partisan Campaign Finance Institute said.
"The last time the independent spending totals significantly favored the Republicans, this time there was more of a party balance," Malbin said.
Although the sheer amount of money that poured into each House race didn't come close to the amounts spent in the Senate, House candidates in some cases were effectively dwarfed by their opponents' outside money advantage.
Outside groups spent more than $5 million working to elect Illinois GOP Rep. Joe Walsh, compared with the $500,000 spent by opponent Tammy Duckworth's outside allies. Coupled with Walsh's campaign's fundraising, the added cash gave him a nearly $3 million advantage over Democrat Duckworth, who won comfortably.
In Colorado's sixth district, Republican Mike Coffman was outspent 7-to-1 by outside groups supporting Democrat Joe Miklosi, who lost the race despite $1.9 million spent on the effort by outside groups.
The amount of money spent did match the outcome of the race in at least three big races in the Senate, however.
Endangered Missouri Democrat Sen. Claire McCaskill outspent her opponent, embattled Rep. Todd Akin, by close to $1 million and eventually pulled out a win, although arguably more because of Akin's abortion comments than her own campaigning.
In this election, the Campaign Finance Institute's Malbin said, the money still mattered, but only to a point.
"Once you have substantial amounts of money on both sides and both candidates are well known in their districts," he said, "then the incremental effect of more money goes down."
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio