Congratulations, Missouri. You’re No. 1 in the nation — for outside political spending in this year’s U.S. Senate race.
That’s right. According to Federal Election Commission figures, outside groups have spent almost $56 million on the race between Sen. Claire McCaskill and Attorney General Josh Hawley. That’s more outside spending than in Texas, Florida, Nevada, Arizona or other states with important Senate contests this year.
We’re not sure why Missouri achieved such a distinction. A close, important election plays some role, of course, but Missourians don’t seem uniquely susceptible to outside interference with their votes. And other races elsewhere are close, too.
We do know the result: television commercials that hurt your brain. Radio ads. Phone calls. Door hangers. Postcards. Digital commercials. The flotsam and jetsam of contemporary campaigns.
America First Action, Inc. has spent $1.7 million opposing McCaskill. Rex Sinquefield, the St. Louis multi-millionaire and well-known political buttinsky, is a donor.
The list goes on. And on. And on. And on.
Independent expenditures are unlimited, and donations are not capped. If outside groups can raise another $25 million or $50 million between now and Election Day, they’re free to spend all of it, and more.
It’s likely all spending in Missouri’s Senate race will exceed $100 million by the time voters cast their ballots — and that’s without counting so-called “dark money” spending by nonprofit “social welfare” groups, which is rarely disclosed.
It’s stomach-turning. What will donors get for their $100 million when the campaign ends? More tax cuts for the rich? Higher drug prices? Fewer regulations to protect public health and safety? Perhaps.
Better government? No.
Unlimited outside campaign spending is protected by the First Amendment. And many of the donations to these groups are in the public record, so Missouri voters can know who’s trying to buy a Senate seat.
But there is a way to fight back against the flood of special-interest campaign spending: Ignore it.
Toss the door hangers and leaflets in the fireplace. Mute the TV set. Don’t click on social media websites with paid-for political messages. Turn off the radio. Listen to The Star’s Deep Background podcast instead.
Missourians who want to rely on campaign ads to make their decisions must depend on the ads’ truthfulness and accuracy. That’s a risky proposition..
Common sense, trusted news sources that provide fact-based reporting, and discussions with family and friends are much better tools for reaching a verdict. In the next three weeks, we hope and believe Missouri voters will use those tools.