From the Koch brothers and Art Pope to George Soros and Michael Bloomberg, wealthy donors are making North Carolina’s U.S. Senate race one of America’s first $100 million contests.
Outside groups continue to flood the state with ads and accusations, forcing Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan and Republican Thom Tillis to keep scrambling for dollars in the campaign’s final two weeks.
Money spent or committed in the race is poised to top $103 million, according to public records and interviews with donors. Three-quarters of it comes from party and interest groups. More than $22 million is “dark money” from groups that don’t disclose their donors.
“It’s a stunning number, and it tells you two things,” says Larry Sabato, a University of Virginia political scientist. “That campaign finance is completely out of anybody’s control and North Carolina is a premier swing state.”
The flood of money paid for nearly 80,000 TV ads through Oct. 13, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of CMAG/Kantar Media tracking data. At one point this month, that translated to three Senate ads every five minutes.
And more are coming. On Friday, a conservative group announced a new $1 million TV campaign against Hagan, who responded with her own new ad.