Negative Political Ads Examined

Blonde woman in ad attacking Harold Ford Jr.
As Election Day approaches, the number of poliical ads seem to be growing. Just how much is spent on negative ads? And where do campaigns get their money from to fund them?

How much has been spent on negative ads?

So far this campaign, the political parties have exposed voters to nearly $160 million in ads attacking congressional candidates, the Associated Press reports. Republicans have spent $87.5 million to oppose candidates and Democrats have spent $72.6 million.

Where do political parties get their funds?

Direct contributions from individuals continue to be the primary source of funds for national party committees, according to data from the FEC. Republican committees reported that 82 percent of their funds came from individuals, while Democrats raised 76 percent directly from individuals.

The four congressional campaign committees also have seen significant growth in contributions from the campaign committees of their members. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and National Republican Campaign Committee have both received about $27.4 million from their candidates, while the DSCC reported $10.2 million from members and the NRSC received $4 million.

How much spent on positive ads?

About $17 million has been spent on ads painting a positive image, according to the Associated Press. That's just over $1 of nice for every $10 of nasty in those ads.

How does this compare to previous years?

In 2004, the parties spent about $6 on ads in favor of congressional candidates for every $5 spent opposing candidates. Spending by the parties on congressional campaigns is 54 percent higher than it was for the same period in the 2004 campaign season, according to data compiled by the Federal Election Commission.

Are negative ads legal?

Under the terms of a 2002 campaign finance law, these messages are independent expenditures that the parties can undertake only if they do not coordinate with the candidates they are seeking to help.

To learn more about political advertising:

• Click here to watch the hard-hitting attack ads of Campaign 2006, archived by

• Click here for complete coverage and analysis of Senate and key House races, plus gubernatorial elections.

• You can read more from the Federal Election Commission.