BOISE -- We are less than three weeks from the primary elections in Idaho. The races are heating up, and you've probably noticed it on your television, radio and online. There is a lot of money being spent on these primary elections, but a lot of that money isn't being spent by the campaigns themselves.
One of the most contentious races is the GOP primary for Idaho's 2nd Congressional District. According to finance data provided by the Sunlight Foundation, about $1.5 million has been spent by three super PACs alone in this race, mostly on advertisements. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has spent $600,000 to promote Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) and denounce challenger Bryan Smith. Defending Main Street Inc. has spent $422,000 on the same goals. While the Club for Growth Action has spent $478,743 on ads to get Smith elected.
Again, these are not campaign contributions. Although, there have been plenty of contributions as well, which total in the thousands of dollars. This is just money spent by these super PACs on ads promoting or denouncing a candidate.
The campaigns don't see this money, although they benefit from the ads. KTVB political analyst Dr. Jim Weatherby says the Club for Growth spent a lot of money and helped Bill Sali get elected in 2006.
Good or bad, is this just the reality now? Are national super PACs just spending money hand-over-fist, financing candidates, while not actually financing campaigns? Weatherby says yes, but not in all races, I think it's true in what are considered key races. And this race, in the 2nd Congressional District of Idaho is a bellwether for the country between the Tea Party Libertarian insurgent wing of the Republican Party and establishment.
Weatherby also says if a candidate pushed by a PAC in a primary does not win, they often succeed in pushing the winner a little further toward their views. So, Weatherby says they see it as money well spent, win or lose.