Outside groups have poured more than $4.5 million into the hotly contested congressional race between incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. John Tierney and Republican challenger Richard Tisei, according to the most recent Federal Election Commission records.
The independent expenditures total more than the combined amount of campaign cash raised by the 6th District candidates themselves. The race is the most expensive U.S. House race in New England and ranks among the top ten nationally in terms of spending by outside groups.
In Massachusetts, all but a tiny fraction of independent expenditures in U.S. House races have been directed at the 6th District. Republicans have targeted Tierney, a Salem Democrat who is seeking an eighth term, as the most vulnerable of the incumbent Democratic House members seeking re-election in Massachusetts.
Tierney's wife, Patrice, was convicted last year of filing false tax returns for one of her two brothers accused of running an illegal offshore gambling ring. Tierney himself has not been accused of wrongdoing and has criticized Tisei for TV ads that raised the controversy involving the congressman's family.
Tisei, an openly gay former state senator and 2010 Republican nominee for lieutenant governor, has been the beneficiary of about three-quarters of the spending by outside groups in the campaign, according to the FEC records.
The Young Guns Action Fund, a super political action committee that identifies and supports promising Republican candidates, has spent more than $900,000 in support of Tisei and against Tierney.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has spent $400,000 opposing Tierney, while the American Unity PAC, which was created to back Republican candidates who support gay marriage and equality for gays and lesbians, has spent more than $500,000 on Tisei's behalf.
Much of the outside expenditures going to support Tierney's candidacy and opposing Tisei have come from pro-teacher groups, with $500,000 coming from the National Education Association's Advocacy Fund and more than $300,000 from the Save Our Schools Fund.
The bulk of the independent expenditures in the race have been targeted for media advertising, according to the FEC records.
Independent expenditures refer to money spent by outside groups in support or opposition to a candidate without coordinating with that candidate or their opponent. There's no limit on the amount groups can make in independent expenditures.
Tierney and Tisei are on about equal footing when it comes to fundraising by their own campaigns. Tierney had raised about $1.83 million while Tisei's total was just under $1.9 million at the conclusion of the last quarterly reporting period on Sept. 30.
Among other U.S. House candidates in Massachusetts, the clear fundraising leader continued to be 32-year-old Joseph Kennedy III, the son of former U.S. Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II and grandson of the late Robert F. Kennedy, who is seeking the 4th District held by the retiring Barney Frank.
The younger Kennedy, making his first run for elective office, raised more than $1.1 million in the quarter ending Sept. 30, bringing his total for the campaign to more than $3.8 million.
Kennedy has raised more than twice the total of any of the incumbent Massachusetts Democrats seeking re-election this year.
His Republican opponent, Sean Bielat, had raised about $783,000 through Sept. 30, according to FEC records.