One good note from the election is that the SuperPACs that spent billions on the election received very little in return. The Sunlight Foundation reports that SuperPACs spent $1.3 billion. Most of that was spent on the presidency and senate races. The bulk of the SuperPAC spending came from conservative groups. Liberal groups didn’t raise the same amount of money. Yet when the votes were counted, conservative candidates did not do well.
Karl Rove’s American Crossroads spent $103 million. American Crossroads’ success rate calculated to one of the lowest rates of returns of all SuperPacs, just 1%. That means nearly $102 million was spent on elections where the Rove candidate lost. Part of that reason is Rove backed certain losers like senate candidates Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock.
Rove is supposed to be a political genius but his near zero batting average is a very visible and uncomfortable albatross to wear around his neck. It will be challenging to refill his group’s coffers when he has to explain that 99% of his donor’s contributions went to naught.
Other conservative groups didn’t fare much better, getting rates of return in the 5-10% range, but the Republican National Committee can at least claim some respectability. They had a 31.6% return on investment, nearly matching the Democratic National Committee that had 39.2%.
The conservative Americans for Tax Reform had a respectable 57.4% rate of return, but they still failed to match the success of liberal groups like Service Employees International Union that had an 84.7% return on investment.
Although liberal groups had a 60-70% return on investment, that is not necessarily because of their campaign brilliance. After all, someone had to win.
In the more competitive races, the results marked a Democratic year. Some of the high return rates could be the result of picking safer races to contest. Conversely, the lower return rates might have happened because some SuperPACs chose races that were more difficult to win. Regardless, the goal in spending over a billion dollars is to win. Directing those dollars to where the maximum effect will go is what campaign spending is all about. For Rove and many of the conservative SuperPACs, they looked more clueless than genius in knowing how to use their influence.