Newt Gingrich claims a ‘green wave’ of liberal ‘dark money’ is electing a slew of Democrats to California House seats but the numbers tell a different story

  • Democratic challenger Katie Porter defeated Republican incumbent Rep. Mimi Walters in the race for California’s 45th district on Thursday night, flipping the seat from red to blue.
  • A Walters campaign fundraising email from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich obtained by INSIDER claims that a “green wave” of liberal dark money “crashed over California,” propelling Democrats to victory.
  • In reality, “dark money” groups spent four times as much on Walters, the Republican candidate, than Porter, the Democrat.

As Democrats position themselves to flip five Republican-held seats in Southern California, Newt Gingrich claimed in a Thursday night fundraising email for Rep. Mimi Walters’ campaign that a “green wave” of Democratic “dark money” propelled Democrats to victory – despite the fact that “dark money” groups actually spent four times more on Walters than her Democratic opponent.

On Thursday evening, the Associated Press called the hotly-contested race in the 45th district for Democratic candidate Katie Porter, a law professor who challenged incumbent Rep. Mimi Walters and led by a margin of 6,000 votes on Thursday.

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A Nov. 15 Walters fundraising email from former House speaker Newt Gingrich and obtained by INSIDER read, “The media didn’t tell you about the real story this election cycle. There was no blue wave – if there had been, the Democrats would have seized the Senate…we’re seeing a green wave wash over California right now.”

“The real wave was green – as in liberal dark money,” the email continued, “The Democratic machine poured money into California to flip Republican House seats. [Mimi] needs our help to prepare for a possible recount and win the seat. The left has spent tens of millions of dollars in an attempt to buy this seat and defeat Mimi…fighting back to keep this election fair is going to take everything we’ve got.”

The Walters campaign did not respond to INSIDER’s request for comment on whether they planned to file a request for a recount.

Newt Gingrich
Former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Kevin Hagen/Getty Images

“Dark money” broadly refers to political donations that come from non-profit groups registered with the IRS, like 501(c)4 social welfare groups. Unlike political action committees, these 501(c) nonprofits are not required to register with the FEC and disclose their donors.

Gingrich’s lamenting of a “green wave” of dark money carrying Democrats to victory – also echoed in a Fox News op-ed from earlier this month – is somewhat contradicted by the actual fundraising data available so far in Southern California Congressional races.

In the race for California’s 45th district, non-disclosing outside groups actually spent more than four times as much money support to Walters, the Republican candidate, than to support Porter, the Democratic nominee. While two 501(c) groups spent a total $US256,000 to support Walters, a mixture of 501(c)s spent a total of $US57,680 to support Porter.

According to FEC disclosures analysed by the Center for Responsive Politics, none of the candidates who ran in Orange County general election contests raised more than 1.73% of their direct campaign funds from non-profit groups that do not disclose their donors.

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In terms of money not donated directly to a candidate’s campaign and spent to support the candidates in the form of TV ad buys, for example, “dark money” groups expended $US1.5 million to support the five Democratic candidates in competitive Southern California races and $US1.27 million supporting the Republicans, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

This means that while spending from non-disclosing groups slightly favoured Democrats, Southern California candidates of both parties benefited from the “green wave,” as Gingrich put it. And if outside money could really “buy” a House seat, Republicans would have won in at least two districts.

Outside groups spent more on Democrats than Republicans in two races, the contest for California’s 39th district and the 25th, groups supporting the Democratic and Republican candidates spent almost exactly the same amount in the 48th district, and 501(c)s spent more on Republicans than Democrats in the 45th and in the 49th district.