The anticipated U.S. Senate race between incumbent Democrat Jeanne Shaheen and Republican Scott Brown is expected to be a costly campaign for both sides, and the money is already flowing in.
Shaheen voluntarily released her campaign finance report on Thursday, well in advance of the April 15 filing deadline for the first quarter of 2014 set by the Federal Election Commission.
The former governor had her best three months of fundraising since being elected to the Senate in 2009, according to Communications Director Harrell Kirstein.
Once the Brown candidacy advanced from theory to reality, the donations increased substantially.
The Shaheen campaign is expected to report to the FEC that $1.5 million was raised from Jan. 1 to March 31 from 26,689 donors, more than double the 12,000 donors of the last quarter in 2013.
Shaheen has accumulated a $7.3 million war chest for the November election, some of which has already been spent, since the campaign reported it has only $4.3 million cash on hand.
Independent campaign expenditures have been made in support of Shaheen, including $150,000 from the Senate Majority PAC, a political action committee headed by former aides to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and more than $200,000 by the League of Conservation Voters.
In releasing her spending report prior to the FEC deadline, Shaheen hopes to bring attention to the number of donors and to the fact that Brown has, so far, refused to discourage money from outside groups.
"Ninety-six percent of (Shaheen's) contributions came from grass-roots donors who gave less than $250," according to Kirstein. "Our campaign is proud of all the grass-roots support to date, and we're confident we'll have the resources we'll need to win in November."
Shaheen has pressed Brown to sign the People's Pledge, a pact he agreed to in his unsuccessful effort to keep the Massachusetts Senate seat he won in a special election after the death of Sen. Ted Kennedy. Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren won that race, but the pact between the two minimized the influence of Political Action Committees and third-party donors.
Common Cause and Public Citizen, two groups that advocate for transparency and accountability in government, have asked Brown and Shaheen to meet and develop a People's Pledge designed for the New Hampshire campaign, and they hope for a reply by April 15.
The Brown campaign declined to offer a preview of his campaign finance report and does not appear inclined to discourage third-party contributions this time around. He still has to defeat several primary opponents in September.
'Dark money' is flowing
The "Independent Expenditure Search" on the FEC website revealed that a lot of money has already been spent in New Hampshire on Brown's behalf by the Ending Spending Action Fund.
According to OpenSecrets.org, "Ending Spending is a conservative nonprofit group that focuses on federal spending and the national debt. The group does not disclose its donors."
As soon as it became apparent that Brown would run, Ending Spending started spending. The political action committee paid $60,136 to an ad agency for media placement on April 3 and $10,086 for media production on April 8 in support of the Brown campaign, according to the FEC reports.
A search for independent expenditures going back to Jan. 1 did not turn up any for Shaheen, although they are likely to be forthcoming if there is no agreement between the two candidates. Most third-party money, or "dark money," is spent on negative campaign ads targeting the opponent.
The issue has moved front and center in the wake of two Supreme Court rulings that eased or eliminated restrictions on third-party money - the Citizens United ruling in 2009, which struck down restrictions on independent political spending by corporations and unions; and the McCutcheon ruling on April 2, which abolished limits to how much one individual could give to political campaigns.
A Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey released Thursday suggests that voters, by a 2-to-1 ratio, disagree with those rulings.
Of those surveyed, 54 percent feel the government should regulate how much money can be given to political campaigns; 29 percent disagree; and 16 percent are undecided.
The survey of 1,000 likely voters conducted from April 3 to 4 has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
It also revealed that there is a limit to how much campaign contributions can accomplish.
"Voters still think it's a candidate's views and not campaign contributions that provide the winning edge in an election," Rasmussen reports.
Brown will first have to defeat three challengers in the Republican primary - former Republican U.S. Sen. Bob Smith, state Sen. Jim Rubens and conservative activist Karen Testerman.
Money will flow to whichever candidate wins the Republican nomination, according to Rubens.
"The millions in big money necessary to defeat Jeanne Shaheen in November will follow the candidate who wins the September primary," he said in a statement issued Thursday.