Last week was the third quarter campaign finance reporting deadline in North Carolina state races. At long last – and only days before Election Day – the public finally gets a look at what entities are spending on our state’s elections. This is the third installment in our coverage of this year’s campaign finance reporting, and generally the most important, because it covers a longer timeframe and falls, of course, right before the election. (See our look at the first quarter and second quarter reporting.)
Some readers may ask: didn’t the third quarter of 2022 end on September 30th? You’re right, it did. But in the hall of mirrors that is North Carolina state politics, “quarterly” deadlines are not all as they seem. The “first quarter” actually ran through April, the “second quarter” was just 2 months long, and the “third quarter” ran from July to late October. What motives were in play in setting the Q3 deadline for just 1 week before Election Day is not hard to speculate.
Understanding campaign finance in North Carolina gets somewhat complicated. For a very brief primer on the subject, please refer to our post on the first quarter report. We will cover the topic in more detail in a future post.
The clearest takeaway from this report is the sheer scale of industry spending on North Carolina legislative races. Raleigh’s big business lobby spent well over $5 million on direct contributions to Republican politicians in the legislature. (Bear in mind, this data only includes numbers from the 41 biggest state PACs – there are dozens, even hundreds, others, which give in smaller amounts.) By contrast, they gave a much smaller proportion to Democrats. This mostly reflects the fact that Republicans hold majorities of both chambers, and thus the power to move lobbyists’ favored legislation.
Another important caveat is that these figures represent only the tip of the iceberg of total political spending. Many entities – like the NC Chamber of Commerce or Duke Energy – also spend in much higher amounts on “dark money,” or ads that are separate from their formal, directly linked PACs. Those two groups alone were rumored to have spent roughly $6 million in the 2020 election cycle on TV and mail political advertising, mostly attacking Democrats.
For a look at all of the data in the report, please refer to NC-PACS, our shared Google sheet that includes all the relevant data.