Outside money from Super PACs is already pouring into the New Mexico Senate race between Heather Wilson and Rep. Martin Heinrich. American Crossroads—a conservative super PAC launched in 2010 with help from Karl Rove and former RNC chairman Ed Gillespie—released an its first pro-Wilson ad on Wednesday. The ad, which Crossroads spent $250,000 to air across the state, is a positive bio spot that emphasizes her Air Force career and her “independent record.”
Wilson sat on the board of Crossroads GPS—the 501(c)(4) committee aligned with American Crossroads—from August 2010 to February 2011. The New Mexico Telegram reports that she “lists the Washington D.C. political group as a ‘nonprofit educational’ group.”
Crossroads GPS has provoked controversy because it runs explicitly political ads designed to get Republicans elected, but it does not have to reveal its donors to the public. The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision has allowed groups such as Crossroads to become big-money political players. During the 2010 election cycle, American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS spent heavily on pro-Republican and anti-Democrat ads.
OpenSecrets.org reports that Crossroads aims to spend up to $300 million in 2012 to try to oust President Obama from the White House. In its first two years of operation, Just this week, Crossroads paid $7 million for an anti-Obama ad that will run for the next two weeks in 10 battleground states.
In other states with contentious Senate campaigns, Republican backers have been outspending Democratic backers three to one. Ohio’s Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown has so far been outspent $8 million to $2.5 million. Like the New Mexico race, Virginia’s Senate seat is open, and two solid candidates are competing. But the disparity in outside money is staggering. Supporters of Democratic candidate Tim Kaine have been outspent $1.9 million to $385,000.
What does this mean for the Heinrich-Wilson race as we gear up for a nasty general election campaign? If the race follows the precedents already being set in other states, New Mexicans should prepare to have their airwaves flooded and their mailboxes filled with political ads paid for by outside groups. And chances are, they won’t be so positive.