It has been said that “money is the mother’s milk of politics,” and if that is the case, then the South Carolina 5th Congressional District’s cup runneth over.
According to most reports, the race between Democratic incumbent John Spratt and Republican challenger Mick Mulvaney is one of the most expensive U.S. House races this election. It ranks in the top 20, with more than $3 million spent. And what has that $3 million bought? A scorched-earth policy that leaves very few viewers of the air war with a positive taste in their mouths.
Now don’t get me wrong -- money is critical to politics, as the saying goes. And with the media markets that are spread out across this sprawling district -- from Charlotte to Columbia across to Florence and Myrtle Beach -- there’s a need for each campaign to have the resources to fight a modern air war. But there’s a point in which saturation is beyond needed, and we’re starting to get collateral damage from all the carpet bombing.
Republicans have viewed this district as one that they have been after for some time -- it’s a solid Republican district at the presidential level, but Spratt has been able to hold on due to the power of incumbency of office. And with that power of incumbency comes fundraising prowess, to the tune of $1.8 million so far, according to opensecrets.com’s website. To match Spratt, Mulvaney has raised $1.3 million as well, which is not bad for a challenger against a long-time serving incumbent.
But both amounts are dwarfed with the amount of money flowing into the district from outside interest groups. Over $3 million have been spent outside of the candidates’ campaigns on the race, with over two million of that figure going against Spratt. The National Republican Congressional Committee, the political arm of House Republicans, has spent over $1 million itself, but so too have groups such as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the NRA, and the National Federation of Independent Business.
But the Spratt-Mulvaney race is attracting a new breed of groups -- the 60 Plus Association, American Future Fund and the Citizens for a Working America PAC. These three groups have spent nearly half a million dollars to influence the race, mostly by running a scorched-earth campaign of negative campaign ads against Spratt. Welcome to the new rules of the game when it comes to money and campaign advertising.
For those of us in the Charlotte media market who are inundated with these ads for S.C.’s 5th, just remember -- there’s another $3 million being let loose in the North Carolina 8th Congressional District battleground between Kissell and Johnson. Charlotte just happens to be in the cross-hairs of multiple air wars that don't show any sign of relenting until after Nov. 2.