A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Players Guide 2018


Outside groups spent more than $1.6 billion in the 2016 election on TV ads and other forms of communication that urged the election or defeat of federal candidates, according to the Federal Election Commission.

Many of those same groups — and new ones that have formed since — will spend hundreds of millions more trying to influence the outcome of the 2018 elections.

Who’s behind these groups and what’s their agenda? You can find out in Players Guide 2018, our biennial feature that we reintroduce today with profiles of 14 outside groups. We will add more profiles and update the published ones throughout the campaign cycle.

Our first batch of Players Guide items includes profiles of Priorities USA Action, a Democratic super PAC formed by two former aides to Barack Obama, and Senate Leadership Fund, a Republican super PAC created by allies of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Combined, the two groups in the 2016 campaign cycle accounted for nearly $220 million in independent expenditures — the term the FEC uses to define funds spent on TV ads and other forms of communication to expressly advocate for or against specific federal candidates.

As of April 20, outside groups have spent more than $100 million on independent expenditures during this campaign cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. That’s just the beginning. Follow us throughout the 2018 election as we write about the political groups, policy issues and campaign claims in the most competitive races.

Our 2018 election coverage this year is made possible in part through a generous donation by the Stanton Foundation. The foundation was founded by the late Frank Stanton, who became president of CBS in 1946 and served for 25 years. We wish to thank the Stanton Foundation for its continued support.