RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — If you're feeling buried by nasty political ads from your television, there's good reason.
A Virginia Public Access Project analysis shows that independent groups have already bought more than $37 million in ads for this year's campaigns in swing-state Virginia.
That's more than a tenfold increase in the amount of outside money that poured into Virginia in the presidential race of 2008.
Virginia is one of a handful of battleground states, one where polling shows a deadlocked race not only between Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney, but also in the U.S. Senate race between Republican George Allen and Democrat Tim Kaine, a race that could determine partisan control of the Senate.
Obama in 2008 was the first Democrat to carry Virginia in a presidential race in 44 years. Democrats are determined to keep the state's 13 electoral votes for Obama, and Republicans are just as determined to restore the dominance they had enjoyed since 1964.
The analysis by VPAP, an independent, nonpartisan and nonprofit tracker of political cash in Virginia politics, shows that about half of the independent groups that have put money into the races don't disclose their donors. At the foundation of VPAP's data is information gleaned from the public records of broadcast television stations that serve Virginia markets.
That's a figure that has ballooned since the last presidential election because of the Supreme Court's 2010 ruling that restrictions on corporate or union spending in election were unconstitutional.
That unlocked billions of corporate dollars and unlimited cash from wealthy individuals to influence politics through "super PACs." Some disclose their donors to the Federal Election Commission, but those with nonprofit affiliates don't report to the FEC and don't have to identify their benefactors. Overwhelmingly, the independent big money has favored conservatives and opposed Democrats.
Conservative or pro-Republican outside groups have put up three times the cash as liberal or pro-Democratic ones.
Sibling groups from the right guided by former George W. Bush adviser Karl Rove together account for half the spending. Crossroads GPS, a nonprofit social welfare organization which doesn't disclose its donors, has spent $12.6 million, or 33 percent of the total; American Crossroads, which does disclose, spent $6 million, or 16 percent. A conservative group that does disclose its contributors, Restore Our Future, ranked third among independent spenders at nearly $4 million.
And even more of the independent political ads are coming soon to your television. VPAP's data show that outside groups have reserved $7 million worth of paid TV time in October.
Virginia Public Access Project Analysis: http://www.vpap.org/updates/show/1046