Outside Groups Are Spending $120 on Every Voter in Alaska

Independent expenditures account for nearly $700 million spent on campaigns there this cycle.

One week from today, Alaskan voters will either reelect Democratic Sen. Mark Begich, or elect Republican challenger Dan Sullivan. It's one of the close races that could determine control of the Senate come 2015. And for that reason, outside political groups have been making it rain on Alaskan residents—or perhaps, given the climate, making it snow.

A recent report from the Sunlight Foundation found that outside groups have spent an average of $120 on each Alaskan voter this cycle.

+ (Sunlight Foundation)

That may seem excessive, but it can be explained by the political climate in the state and its sparse population. Alaska may be the largest state in the country geographically, but it's also the fourth-least populous state.

From the Sunlight Foundation:

In all, that state has seen some $36 million in independent expenditures reported to the Federal Election Commission. That's a lot of outside interest by any measure, but it's even more impressive considering the state's population: 730,000, approximately the same number of people who live in Charlotte, N.C. The actual amount of outside groups have spent is doubtlessly higher than the reported figure. That's because "issue" ads that air more than two months before an election and stop short of directly urging a vote for or against a candidate don't have to be reported at all.

By comparison, pro-Obama groups spent $16.73 per voter during the 2012 election, compared with pro-Romney groups' $20.09 per voter.

In 2014, no other state comes close to matching Alaska in terms of money per voter. New Hampshire, with its Senate race between Democratic incumbent Jeanne Shaheen and Republican Scott Brown, came in a distant second, at $34 per voter. Iowa and Arkansas weren't far behind, with independent expenditures amounting to roughly $32 for each voter in those states.

Since the Supreme Court upheld Citizens United in 2010—thereby allowing independent groups to funnel unlimited amounts of money into campaigns—elections have become a de facto subsidy program for local television stations. It's the reason why KTUU, the local NBC affiliate in Anchorage, can charge as much as $3,900 for one 30-second slice of prime-time advertising this month.

Who says politicians hate the media?