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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Ending Spending

Political leanings: Fiscally Conservative

Spending target: Unknown

Ending Spending was originally formed in 2010 as Taxpayers Against Earmarks, a group that advocated against congressional earmarks. In 2011, the group changed its name and expanded its focus to include the nation’s overall fiscal outlook. It ran an ad in July calling on President Obama to cut spending and reduce the deficit during the debt-ceiling debate. It now says its mission is “to educate taxpayers on how their money – and the billions of dollars borrowed every year – is being spent and to present solutions to the spending problem.”

The group was founded by its chairman, J. Joe Ricketts, a businessman who also founded Ameritrade, and whose family owns the Chicago Cubs baseball franchise. Ricketts says that he has been both a Democrat and a Republican, but is now registered as an Independent, and “probably will be that way for the rest of my life.” He is also chairman of the Ending Spending Fund, a political action committee that “independently sponsors advertisements which advocate for the election or defeat of federal candidates across the country on the basis of a particular candidate’s position on Congressional earmarks, regardless of party affiliation.”

The Ending Spending Fund is registered with the Federal Election Commission and reports its donors and expenditures. As one of the so-called “super” PACs, the fund is allowed to raise funds of unlimited amounts. During the 2010 election cycle, for example, it received almost all of its more than $1.18 million from just one source: its chairman. Ricketts contributed $1.16 million to the PAC, which also received an additional $20,672 from the former Taxpayers Against Earmarks group. It spent about $1.15 million running radio and television ads for or against just four candidates for office in 2010, nearly all of it against Democrats. The vast majority of that total — more than $860,000 — was spent opposing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, who defeated Republican Sharron Angle.

The fund has not stated its fundraising or spending goals for the 2012 election cycle. But, as of June 30, it reported spending $508,111 — nearly half on a Republican Senate primary in Nebraska. It spent more than $250,000 supporting state Sen. Deb Fischer and opposing state Attorney General Jon Bruning. Fischer won and will run against former U.S. Sen. Bob Kerrey in November.

Update, July 26: We updated this item to reflect campaign finance data through June 30, 2012.