Republicans firmed up their control on the North Carolina General Assembly last year by taking an approach once used by Democrats.
Republicans used their House and Senate caucuses to raise money and push their targeted candidates to a lopsided financial advantage.
“They’re quickly getting to the level and then surpassing what the Democrats were able to do when they were in power,” said Bob Hall, research director of Democracy North Carolina, a group that tracks campaign spending.
The GOP Senate caucus, the party organization of Republican senators, raised nearly $4.5 million for the 2012 elections, compared to $1 million raised by its Democratic counterpart, Hall found.
The House Republican caucus raised $3.7 million, compared to Democrats’ $1.8 million.
Most of the money went from legislative campaigns to the respective party’s caucus account. Most of the rest came from political action committees representing business and trade groups, which have a stake in legislation in the new General Assembly session that starts Wednesday.
For each party, the caucuses acted as a sort of election kitty.
Republican House Speaker Thom Tillis of Cornelius, for example, raised $1.7 million despite being unopposed. He put $1.2 million of that in the caucus kitty.
Rep. Ruth Samuelson, a Charlotte Republican, also was unopposed. She raised nearly $600,000 and gave the caucus $245,000.
Senate President Phil Berger, a Republican from Eden, gave his caucus $1.2 million.
The caucuses, in turn, gave money to candidates in about 15 targeted races.
That included Tim Moffitt in an Asheville House race, who got $140,000 from the party. Jim Davis, a Republican senator from Macon County, got $595,000. Wake Forest Republican Chad Barefoot got $635,000.
The money helped candidates run TV ads and flood mailboxes with glossy fliers.
The caucuses also spent money on so-called coordinated expenditures, such as paying companies to print fliers or produce ads for several candidates.
The Senate GOP caucus, for example, spent $1.4 million in direct donations to candidates, according to Hall’s analysis, and $2.3 million in coordinated and independent efforts.
“That financial advantage can be quite significant when you drill down to specific districts,” said Jonathan Kappler, research director for the North Carolina Free Enterprise Foundation.
Republicans, who took control of the legislature after the 2010 elections, are doing what Democrats did when they were in power.
“That’s the way that these campaigns for the General Assembly have been run for many, many years,” Kappler said. “And the Republicans have really been able to use the majorities they won in the 2010 election to their advantage in the 2012 election.”