There is for now just one guaranteed outcome to the 2010 elections: losing is an expensive proposition. On Tuesday, the Democratic Party is expected to suffer major defeats across the board, including in all likelihood the loss of control of the House of Representatives. To which the question will be asked: why, exactly, did an election drubbing cost the party so damn much?
A Democratic source sends over the following figures with respect to DNC expenditures during the 2010 cycle.
In the spring, we pledged $50M of direct funds - including $20M in direct transfers to states and committees and $30M on Vote 2010 programs - to help Democrats win. That was part of a $90M effort, including fundraising efforts. We have not only met this commitment, we have exceeded it.
In the past few weeks, we have spent an additional $16M on Get-Out-the-Vote (GOTV) programs and paid advertising. That brings our total commitment to $66M - more than any other midterm in history. Including increased money raised and money spent on behalf of candidates and committees, our total investment is over $115M.
Obviously, that is not chump change. And when you add the operating costs of the DNC, in addition to other expenditures it made on non-election related activities, the total price tag for the last two years ends up being $187,306,290, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The final number seems destined to be above $200 million.
Along the way, a lot of vendors, consultants and pollsters padded their pockets. More than $3.8 million was paid to Telefund, Inc Attn: Nicole Lane for telemarketing; more than $2.2 million went to Media Strategies & Research, for media productions. Benenson Strategy Group, the DNC's chief polling firm, received $2.6 million for its services. The mailing group Action Mailers got checks totaling $2.7 million. And the failed Virginia gubernatorial campaign of Craig Deeds was given a $2.69 million boost.
It's easy to scoff at some of the spending choices made by the DNC on the road to a 2010 blowout. But it seems fair to interpret the money spent in a more favorable light. How much worse would the Democratic Party's fate be had it not been able to raise and spend such copious funds?
The DNC has spent $3 million on African-American media, $1 million on Hispanic media, and $2.5 million in an online effort to reach young and minority voters. In less than six months, the committee made 72 million voter contacts, including door knocks and phone calls. They also devoted a massive trove of staff time and resources to build more than 300 candidate-specific micro-targeting models. Without these functions, the impending doom would be far more ominous.
It is indeed something of a marvel that the DNC's fundraisers were able to drum up the financial support they did in a cycle in which the ominous signs emerged relatively early. And the question going forward is how willing will these donors be to re-up their commitments for the 2012 cycle, which in all likelihood will start in earnest later this week.
Update: A Democratic strategist emails in with the following defense of the DNC:
With how much they raised and spent, it'll be hard to argue that they didn't leave it all on the field... even compared to previous Democratic party efforts. Things would have been worse if not for these efforts. It's not the most resonant argument - it's cold comfort really - but it is one that's true.