WASHINGTON -- Following the Republican wave that swept away the Democratic Senate majority last week, reporters, advocates and pundits debated the efficacy of theestimated $3.7 billion in political spending shelled out over the past 22 months.
Articles pondered whether all the money spent even mattered. Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer's funds were widely deemed wasted, as were the millions spent by Mayday PAC, led by campaign finance reformer Lawrence Lessig. Meanwhile, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce crowed in a blog post, "Out of the 15 primary races, runoffs, and special elections the U.S. Chamber invested in, we were successful in 14." And each outside group's return on investment on Nov. 4 was ranked.
Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), the leading House proponent of campaign finance reform, thinks much of this coverage missed the mark. While the Election Day results matter, they are only a means to the real end -- the legislation and regulation that does and does not move in the next Congress.
"A lot of the moneyed impact," said Sarbanes, "and in some ways, the most sinister is on the governing that happens after."
The impact of the money spent on the 2014 election is already evident in the governing agenda outlined by the incoming Republican leadership. These policies hew remarkably closely to the proposals long advanced by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce -- which was instrumental in helping the GOP finally win control of the Senate.