Incredibly, we are almost only two months away from Election Day 2021. Across the nation, mostly key local elections will be occurring. But in Virginia and New Jersey, state legislative and gubernatorial races will be finishing up their major campaigns. The only really competitive one comes from Virginia, and as Virginia’s campaign finance laws are quite open, outside spending will trend towards Virginia. Interestingly enough however, one group in particular has already been very aggressive in the commonwealth.
Who are Americans For Prosperity?
The outside group driving spending right now is Americans For Prosperity. Born as an anti-tax group in 2004, the group has become a key political player on the right. Backed by many wealthy donors, including the Koch’s, they will support many a Republican candidate financially. Their mission statement says they are “dedicated to the belief that every person has a unique set of gifts and the ability to contribute to society in their own way” and focuses on the idea of reducing government involvement in the economy.
This is certainly a group that has made themselves known before. In 2017 and 2019, they were certainly involved in Virginia. But even then, that was only to certain candidates, and not nearly at the level of spending we’re seeing now. Americans for Prosperity seem to be at the forefront of a larger scale of Republican spending at the legislative level than what was seen in either 2017 or 2019.
Comparisons between 2019 and 2021
Before I start here, I just want to make sure folks know that all the information is in the public viewing. VPAP tracks all outside spending, and all this information is available there. With that information in mind, there are some obvious differences in how Americans For Prosperity is spending this cycle. The most obvious of the lot comes in the form of district 27.
The 27th has been the tightest Republican held seat the last two cycles. In the Richmond suburbs, incumbent Roxanne Robinson has survived two incredibly tight races. In what is a Biden +8 seat, this is expected to be one of the few Democratic attack opportunities in 2021. In 2019 then, Americans For Prosperity did spend $38,000 in pro-Robinson ads throughout the entire cycle. This cycle alone, AFP has already dropped $102,000 in pro-Robinson spending. With half of that going towards digital advertisements, that is still a huge amount of money to put in for a single campaign before even Labor Day has passed.
It shows in other races the group is targeting as well. In 2019 they didn’t spend at all in district 12 or 28. In 2021, they’ve already dropped $12,200 in support of Jason Ballard in the 12th and over $60,000 in support of Tara Durant in the 28th. The 40th, 66th, and 75th district all are a part of that group as well. In so far, the group has spent $301,094 on nine candidates before Labor Day – and there is certainly the potential to expand in the final two months of the cycle.
Will it matter?
Of course, the important question is what it always is; will this spending matter? I don’t know. As much as I support this spending, I’m unsure of how much it will matter. Democrats have outspent Republicans before in key races before and it hasn’t always put the over the top. None of this spending is negative, either. All outside dollars have been pro-Republican, not anti-Democrat.
What I do think this does is possibly even the money game at the House of Delegates level for Republicans. The have been outraised and outspent in that regard since 2017, and this boost in outside spending may even the ballgame in certain key races. It also shows that Republicans have a wide playing field this cycle, or at least they believe they do. It will be something to watch to see if this spending continues, and whether it makes legitimate impacts on some of these races will have to be seen.