WASHINGTON -- Through his super PAC, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has spent twice as much in the special election for Illinois' 2nd Congressional District as all of the top candidates combined, according to pre-election reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.
Independence USA PAC, which is funded solely by the billionaire Bloomberg, reported spending $1.3 million through Feb. 13. Over the same period of time, the five candidates who filed pre-primary election reports in the race for the Democratic nomination to replace former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. reported spending a total of just $561,465 and raising a total of $825,286.
The entirety of Independence USA's spending through Feb. 13 targeted former Democratic Rep. Debbie Halvorson. Bloomberg, a very vocal proponent of gun regulation, opposes Halvorson because she earned an "A" rating from the National Rifle Association during her one prior term in Congress. Halvorson raised only $72,802 as of Feb. 13.
"The mayor has been clear that on issues that are of significant import around the country, he is not going to shy away from educating voters on the record of folks who are running for office," Stefan Friedman, a spokesman for Independence USA, told The Huffington Post.
A new ad released Friday by Independence USA (see above) goes after both Halvorson and Democratic state Sen. Toi Hutchinson, declaring that they "can't be trusted." Hutchinson also earned an "A" rating from the NRA.
The ad ends by endorsing Cook County Chief Administrative Officer Robin Kelly by saying, "Kelly will join President Obama to take on the NRA." Kelly, who has made gun regulation her top issue in the race, is the leading fundraiser in the Feb. 26 primary contest with $293,225 reported through Feb. 13.
"She has been a steadfast supporter of gun safety measures and we're hopeful and confident that she'll go on and represent the 2nd Congressional District in Washington," Friedman said about the Kelly endorsement.
The gun issue skyrocketed to the forefront of the Democratic primary for the 2nd District, which includes parts of Chicago and the Chicago suburbs, after the Dec. 14, 2012, massacre in Newtown, Conn. The issue is especially salient in Chicago where gun violence has led to a surge in the city's murder rate. Last year, the city saw more than 500 murders, a 16 percent increase from the year before. This year, the murder rate is already outpacing last year's.
Bloomberg's super PAC has made a point of taking on Democrats who are more pro-gun than their districts. In the 2012 election, Independence USA helped knock off pro-gun Rep. Joe Baca (D-Calif.) by spending $3.3 million, or more than three times the amount raised by both Baca and his Democratic challenger, state Sen. Negrete McLeod, combined.
The dominance of outside group spending in an individual race, like Independence USA in the Illinois special election, is not new, at least not since the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United ruling paved for the way for a surge in outside group spending. Last year, 40 races saw more outside spending than candidate spending, according to the Sunlight Foundation.