As election spending reached new highs this year — Connecticut’s Senate race was the sixth most expensive in the country, and spending on the presidential race was the highest in history — several student groups on campus have helped contribute to the campaign funds.
In Connecticut, despite Republican candidate Linda McMahon’s 4-to-1 financial advantage over her opponent, Democrat Chris Murphy, she fell to the former representative on Tuesday night. According to OpenSecrets.com, McMahon, whose campaign was 96 percent self-financed, raised $41.5 million dollars and spent $36.1 million in the 2012 election cycle, a significantly larger amount than Murphy, who raised $9.3 million and spent $8.6 million. In the presidential race, each candidate has spent roughly $1 billion during the course of the election. As campaign spending reaches historical levels, Yale undergraduates have raised money for campaigns throughout this election cycle. SNAP PAC, a student-run political action committee, helped fund the Murphy campaign and several other Senate and congressional campaigns, President Matthew Breuer ’14 said.
“Our organization is a great example of the difference between Linda McMahon and Chris Murphy,” Breuer said. “We’re a group of college students who are trying to pay to give some people the opportunity to work on a race and make a difference on a small level.”
Instead of directly donating money, Breuer said, SNAP works with campaign organizers to guarantee that the money goes toward funding a student fellow to work on the campaign for a certain amount of time. According to OpenSecrets.org, the group raised $81,435 — a larger number than the $48,432 they raised in the 2010 cycle — and Breuer said it funded 35 fellows this year to work on Democratic campaigns across the country.
“Our view is this: You know, anyone can cut a $5,000 check to a campaign they believe in and watch that evaporate in 30 seconds on a TV ad,” he said.
Murphy was one of the first candidates SNAP chose to endorse shortly after its founding in 2006, when he first ran for Congress, and this summer SNAP sponsored two field organizers on his Senate bid, Breuer said.
The Yale College Democrats have a political action committee called Bulldog Democrats PAC, but the group uses its PAC funds to support campaign-related activities for its members instead of donating directly to candidates, said Kyle Tramonte ’15, treasurer of the Yale College Democrats.
But Yale College Republicans President Elizabeth Henry ’14 said her organization does not focus its attention on fundraising for campaigns. The group receives funding from the Undergraduate Organizations Committee, she said, and does not donate any funds to campaigns. She said she thinks that because her group has fewer members than the Dems, the Yale Republicans face less pressure to fundraise and can focus on phone banking, canvassing and other campaign work.
“We do canvassing, but usually it’s paid for by the campaign — we don’t pay for it,” she said. “When we did phone banking for Linda McMahon, the McMahon campaign provided the phones, provided everything for us.”
On the national stage, President Barack Obama’s campaign, the Democratic National Committee and outside groups have all put more than $932 million toward Obama’s re-election, compared to $750 million in the 2008 campaign. Republican candidate Mitt Romney’s side has spent close to $1.03 billion on his bid for the White House.