2017 U.S. Senate Race

Super PACs Wield Millions to Elect and to Defeat Senate Candidates

Doug Jones, left, and Roy Moore campaign. (Sources: Doug Jones for Senate, wikimedia; Judge Roy Moore for U.S. Senate, Facebook)

Independent committees aligned with Republicans and Democrats spent almost $7 million this year on television advertisements and other efforts to defeat Roy Moore in his bid to become Alabama’s junior U.S. senator.

Democrat Doug Jones, who defeated Moore, was the target of almost $2.8 million in spending from such groups, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.

The records also show that Moore, the twice-ousted former Alabama chief justice, reported raising $5.15 million for his campaign during the Republican primary, GOP primary runoff and general election. He defeated Sen. Luther Strange to win the party’s nomination but lost by about 20,000 votes to Doug Jones in the Dec. 12 general election.

The four top candidates for the Senate seat raised a total of $22.6 million for their campaigns, according to FEC reports filed shortly before the elections. Independent political action committees spent another $19.51 million during 2017 – bringing the total spent on the campaign to more than $42 million, the FEC reports show. Moore and Jones will file updated reports later.

Jones reported raising $11.72 million for his successful campaigns in the Democratic primary and general election. Strange, who was appointed earlier this year to fill the Senate seat pending an election, raised $4.71 million before losing the Republican runoff to Moore. U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks of Huntsville, who lost in the first Republican primary, collected $1.02 million.

Additionally, federal law allows committees called Super PACS to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money from businesses, labor and individuals to buy ads and fund other efforts to support candidates of their choice or to oppose other candidates. They are required to operate independently of the candidates, with no coordination of efforts.

FEC records show the Super PACs spent $9.33 million on behalf of candidates in the primaries and general election. They spent even more, $10.29 million, to try to defeat those running against the candidates of their choice.

Moore was the target of $6.97 million in spending aimed at defeating him in the Republican primary, runoff against Strange and general election versus Jones.

The biggest-spending of the independent organizations was the Senate Leadership Fund, which reported expenditures of just more than $8 million in its efforts to elect Strange to a full term in the Senate.

The Senate Leadership Fund, founded by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, reported spending $4.45 million on ads and other activities opposing Moore in the Republican primary and runoff. The organization spent another $2.09 million on ads and other efforts supporting Strange’s losing effort. In addition, the fund reported spending $1.48 million targeting Brooks, who failed to make the GOP runoff.

In the general election, the biggest spender was Highway 31, which was formed to support the Jones campaign. The group spent $2.48 million on ads and other efforts targeting Moore and $1.63 million on behalf of Jones.

Here are the top independent groups that spent more than $1 million on the Senate elections this year:

Senate Leadership Fund: $8.02 million

$4.45 million in opposition to Moore

$1.48 million in opposition to Brooks

$2.09 million in support of Strange

Highway 31, $4.11 million

$2.48 million in opposition to Moore

$1.63 million in support of Jones

America First Action Inc., $1.23 million

$1.08 million in opposition to Jones

$155,00 in support of Strange

National Rifle Association of America Political Victory Fund, $1.16 million

$54,772 in opposition to Jones

$32,113 in opposition to Moore

$1.08 million in support of Strange