WASHINGTON More money from outside groups has flowed into Colorados U.S. Senate matchup than any other race in the country, according to data from the Sunlight Foundation.
A whopping $31 million has gone into the contest between Democratic incumbent Michael Bennet and Republican challenger Ken Buck.
Even competitive Senate races in states such as Pennsylvania and Nevada have seen only half as much cash.
The bulk of that money nearly $22 million went to television and radio attack ads. Other money went to phone calls to voters, direct mailings and get-out-the-vote measures.
Sunlight is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization based in Washington, D.C., with a goal of holding government accountable.
Kyle Saunders, an associate professor of political science at Colorado State University, said the money flowing into the Senate race is a sign of what Americans can expect in future elections.
It really does speak to the sheer availability of money and the few competitive races there actually are and how money can make a difference, he said.
The influx of money can be attributed in part to this years landmark Supreme Court ruling on Citizens United, which likened money to free speech and allowed corporations and unions to spend unlimited amounts to elect political candidates.
We knew that there was going to be an impact from Citizens United. And I think that (the ruling) opens up the system to be gamed by a lot of actors that werent able to play before, Saunders said.
The ruling also paved the way for new types of fundraising groups that now are making their mark on elections nationwide.
The NEA Advocacy Fund, an arm of the National Education Association, has spent nearly $2 million in ads against Buck to date. The group is registered by the Federal Election Committee as independent expenditure only, a new category that allows the group to take unlimited donations from unions and corporations.
Even more common after the ruling was the rise of the 501(c)(4), a type of nonprofit that is not required to disclose its donors and falls outside much of the FECs regulations.
While a sizable chuck of the attack ads were funded by established fundraising groups like the Democratic and Republican senatorial committees, one of this years biggest donors was a new, controversial group.
American Crossroads, a conservative-leaning group founded by former Bush aide Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, spent more than any other group against Bennet. It dispensed more than $5 million in attack ads, more than double what it spent against any other candidate.
Saunders said one of the reasons why so much national attention has been on the Colorado Senate race is because the state can be considered a bellwether for the political mood nationwide.
Its been an iconic election because you have Bennet, who is very tightly tied to the Obama administration, and then you have a tea party candidate in Buck. It feels like its the battle thats being fought nationally, he said.
Tamar Hallerman is an American University intern for The Durango Herald. Reach her at herald@durango herald.com.