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State of Democracy's coverage of campaign finance and the role money is playing in the 2016 New Hampshire primary and beyond.0000017a-15d9-d736-a57f-17ff8ee60000

Beyond Senate Race, Outside Money Is Trickling Down Ballot to N.H. Democrats

Allegra Boverman for NHPR
Maggie Hassan and Colin Van Ostern at NHPR forums

The failure of Sen. Kelly Ayotte and Gov. Maggie Hassan to negotiate a deal to limit spending by outside political groups guaranteed that their U.S. Senate race would be the most expensive election in New Hampshire history.

And it is – by far. An unprecedented $127 million has been steered toward the campaign so far. Non-candidate groups account for roughly $96 million, or more than three times what the candidates themselves have spent.

What couldn’t be predicted this year is who would benefit more from the flood of cash. As it happens, it looks like a tie.

Thanks to the importance of the Ayotte/Hassan race in determining which party controls the U.S. Senate next year, the financial resources available to each candidate add up to virtually identical bottom lines. 

While Hassan’s backers have outspent Ayotte’s by just under $3 million, Ayotte’s campaign has raised and spent about $3 million more than Hassan’s.

On the Republican side, Ayotte’s most generous supporter is Granite State Solutions, a Super PAC that's invested $21 million, the most by any single group. The incumbent has also benefited from $14 million in spending by nonprofits, or so-called dark money groups, that don’t disclose their donors.


Two Democratic groups – the Senate Majority PAC and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee – have pumped more than $16 million into the race to help Hassan.

Most of the spending on both sides – more than $75 million – has gone toward traditional television advertisements, with at least $10 million more invested in online ads. 

While the two parties have matched each other dollar for dollar in the Senate campaign, Democrats are far out spending Republicans on the race for New Hampshire Governor. As of October 31, Democrat nominee Colin Van Ostern has spent almost $1.7 million on the race - a whopping six times what Republican Chris Sununu has had at his disposal. 


Outside spenders favor Van Ostern, as well, especially when it comes to television ads. The Democratic Governors’ Association has invested at least $3.3 million on broadcast ads in the Manchester-Boston TV market, compared to $2.2 million by the Republican Governor’s Association. Add in another $2.9 million in ads from the New Hampshire Democratic Party, and voters have seen three pro-Van Ostern ads for every one that touts Sununu.

Save the Children Action Network, a nonprofit that supports preschool education, and United We Can, a labor-funded Super PAC, have spent an additional $1.3 million to help Van Ostern.

Democrats further down the ballot are getting a boost from independent groups, as well. Planned Parenthood Votes has pitched in nearly $500,000 to support more than a half-dozen Democratic Executive Council and Senate candidates. The National Education Association, the nation’s largest teacher’s union, and Everytown for Gun Safety, a pro-gun control group, are also involved helping Democrats win their Senate races.

Meanwhile, with Republican’s hold on the state Senate at risk, Democratic candidates have outspent their opponents by a more than 2-to-1 margin - $1.2 million to $520,000, as of October 31.

Republican candidates for Senate have received about $16,000 in help from NH Priorities PAC and the National Rifle Association.

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