Political parties and independent groups have unleashed more than $20 million in federal races so far this year, in an early preview of the massive spending that will buffet the 2018 midterm contests for the House.
The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC affiliated with House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., tops the organizations active in early races. The group has reported already spending more than $5 million to protect Republican-held House seats in three elections this year, a USA TODAY tally of Federal Election Commission records shows.
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Corry Bliss, the super PAC's executive director, predicts the group will spend a total of $8.6 million on two fast-approaching special elections: the May 25 contest to fill an open House seat in Montana and the June 20 election for the suburban Atlanta seat vacated by House and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. The Georgia race, now down to a runoff between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel, already is on track to be the nation's most expensive House contest.
The leadership fund is looking ahead to the 2018 midterms when all 435 House members are up for re-election and has committed to spending $100 million for those elections — twice its 2016 budget.
Officials also plan to open between 20 and 30 field offices in competitive House races around the country. It's the first time that the super PAC, which can raise unlimited sums, has added a voter-turnout operation to its election arsenal and a sign of the midterm's high stakes for the party.
"We are just getting warmed up," Bliss said of the group's aggressive efforts in special elections.