[Charts by Sunlight Foundation]
At this point in 2006 (the last midterm), the Democratic and Republican party committees accounted for 82 percent of all outside spending on express advocacy. Outside groups accounted for only 18 percent.
Fast forward to 2010, the numbers have flipped dramatically.
As of the end of last week, outside groups have spent more money on independent expenditures than have the party committees -- 59 percent to 41 percent.
That's not to say that before the Citizen's United decision, politics was beanbag. Recall, for instance, the Swiftboat Vets attacks in 2004, backed by individual donors. What's changed is that now corporations (and unions) can give unlimited amounts to independent expenditure groups, just like individuals.
And keep in mind, this comes in the wake of deliberate steps Barack Obama took in 2008 to consolidate the Democratic party's power and limit donations to Dem-aligned outside groups. In absence of those steps, these numbers might be further skewed toward outside organizations. This is, in other words, a largely Republican-caused phenomenon, and exacerbated by the fact that many of their donors have abandoned Michael Steele and the RNC in favor of outside groups like the group American Crossroads, advised by Karl Rove.
Overall IE spending is significantly higher in 2010 than it was in 2006. Thus far, party committees and outside groups have spent nearly $180 million on elections; at this point in 2006, the combined total was just a hair over $140 million.
Ed note: This post has been updated.