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Political Notebook

Outside groups spending big to back GOP hopefuls

September 14, 2010

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NEW YORK — Outside groups supporting Republican candidates in House and Senate races across the country have been swamping their Democrat-leaning counterparts on television since early August as the midterm election season has begun heating up.

Driving the disparity in the ad wars has been an array of Republican-oriented organizations that are set up so that they can accept donations of unlimited size from individuals and corporations without having to disclose them.

The situation raises the possibility that a relatively small cadre of deep-pocketed donors, unknown to the general public, is shaping the battle for Congress in the early going.

The yawning gap in spending by independent interest groups is alarming some Democratic officials, who argue that it amounts to an effort on the part of very wealthy Republican donors, as well as corporate interests, newly emboldened by regulatory changes, to buy the election.

“While each of our campaigns has the resources they need to be competitive, we now face shadow groups putting their thumbs on the scale with undisclosed, unlimited and unregulated donations,’’ said Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

As the primary season ends this week and the general election season begins in earnest, the nightmare for the Democratic Party is that this is just the beginning.

The snapshot of early television spending would seem to be a fulfillment of Democrats’ worst fears after the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in the Citizens United case in January that lifted a ban on direct corporate spending on political campaigns.

In Senate races, Republican-leaning interest groups outspent Democrat-leaning ones on television $10.9 million to $1.3 million, from Aug. 1 to Sept. 8, according to Campaign Media Analysis Group, a company that tracks political advertising.

In the House, Republican-leaning groups outspent Democrat-leaning ones, $3.1 million to $1.5 million.

A major question is how big a mark labor unions will be able to make for Democrats; they have mostly held their fire on television up to this point. — NEW YORK TIMES

Obama says black colleges crucial to education goals
WASHINGTON — President Obama said yesterday the nation’s black colleges and universities will play a crucial role in helping achieve his goal of restoring the US lead in college graduation rates.

“Our success in the 21st century economy is going to depend almost entirely on having skilled workers,’’ the president said. “We can’t get there unless all of you are improving your graduation rates. We can’t get there unless all of you are continuing to make the dream of a college education a reality for more students.’’

The president said his administration is investing $850 million over the next decade in historically black institutions of higher education and freeing up more money for education expenses by eliminating “billions of dollars of unnecessary subsidies to banks and financial institutions’’ through student loans.

Obama said that civil rights leaders recognized that “education is how America and its people might fulfill our promise.’’ — BLOOMBERG NEWS

Minnesota and Wisconsin investigate double voting
MADISON, Wis. — Prosecutors in Minnesota and Wisconsin are investigating dozens of cases in which voters may have illegally cast ballots in both states in the 2008 presidential election.

The states found 35 cases in which voters listed an identical name and date of birth and were recorded as voting on both sides of the border. Those cases have been sent to local prosecutors. — ASSOCIATED PRESS