More than $200 million in outside money floods Florida elections since 'Citizens United'
More than $200 million in outside money has poured into Florida elections since a landmark 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision, bombarding voters with ads, weakening control candidates have over their own messages and pitting free speech rights against increasing secrecy.
Florida is one of the biggest and most expensive laboratories in this new era of loosely regulated money raised and spent beyond candidate campaigns, and the Tampa Bay Times' review is the first attempt to grasp the sheer volume and reach in federal elections.
Some 170 outside groups, many that did not exist before 2010, are reshaping the Florida landscape, or at least turning up the noise with an overwhelmingly negative stream of TV and radio ads, mailers and phone calls.
"It's an X-factor," said Alex Patton, a Republican consultant in Gainesville. "You don't know when it's coming, how it's coming or what it's going to say."
The $200 million estimate comes from research the Center for Responsive Politics provided to the Times, Federal Election Commission records and interviews with officials at some of the biggest independent groups. The total does not include the millions spent by candidates themselves.
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