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Column: Outside money pouring into Iowa’s U.S. Senate race, favors Greenfield

Column: Outside money pouring into Iowa’s U.S. Senate race, favors Greenfield

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While the U.S. Senate race between Sen. Joni Ernst and challenger Theresa Greenfield can at times feel like a contest between who can be more “aw shucks Iowa,” the biggest money being spent on their U.S. Senate campaign is coming from outside the state.

Ernst, a first-term Republican is facing off against Greenfield, a Democrat and real estate businesswoman in one of the most closely watched Senate races in the country.

The race is drawing national attention not just because it’s competitive — polls have showed a close race between the two, with many saying Greenfield has a small lead — but also because it figures to play a prominent role in which party emerges from the November election with control of the Senate.

A close race with the political balance of the Senate at stake just begs for millions of outside dollars to be spent.

And myriad groups have readily complied.

So far, Greenfield is getting more help from beyond Iowa’s borders, according to the non-profit, nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics (

Groups aligned with national Democrats and liberal issue groups both have been more active than their Republican and conservative counterparts, according to the center.

The Senate Majority PAC, a political organization linked to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, has spent $11.8 million supporting Greenfield, and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the Senate Democrats’ official campaign arm, has spent $1.3 million attacking Ernst, according to the center.

The Senate Majority PAC’s financial support has come from the Democratic dark money group Majority Forward and Fred Eychaner, a Chicago media publisher and major Democratic donor. Both have contributed $8 million, the center reported.

A dark money group is so labeled because it is not required to divulge its donors.

As for liberal issue groups: a PAC affiliated with EMILY’S List, which works to elect pro-choice women to office, has spent $2.6 million; the anti-dark money group End Citizens United has spent $2.5 million; and the gun safety group Everytown for Gun Safety Victory Fund has spent $2.2 million, all supporting Greenfield and opposing Ernst, according to the center.

Another noteworthy outside spender in Iowa is The Lincoln Project, which was created by Republicans and conservatives who oppose President Donald Trump. That group has spent $202,000 opposing Ernst’s re-election, according to the center.

Outside Republican groups have been helping Ernst, too, but to a lesser degree, according to the center’s analysis.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee has spent $7.5 million attacking Greenfield, primarily on her business record, and the Senate Leadership Fund, which is aligned with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has spent $3.6 million supporting Ernst and opposing Greenfield, the center reported.

Americas PAC has spent $1.3 million supporting Ernst. That group received $5 million from Illinois Republican megadonor Richard Uihlein, co-founder, director, chairman of the board and CEO of Uline Corporation, according to the Center.

With two months remaining before the November 3 election, and so long as polling continues to show a close race between Greenfield and Ernst, these numbers will only grow.

— Erin Murphy covers Iowa politics and government for Lee Enterprises. His email address is Follow him on Twitter at @ErinDMurphy.

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