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Who got their money's worth?

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During the campaign season just past, outside interest groups, or super PACs, spent $8 million to influence congressional campaigns on the Ventura County-Santa Barbara County coast -- $4.4 million in the 26th Congressional District and $3.6 million in the 24th Congressional District.

These districts were in the top 10 percent of congressional races nationwide in attracting super PAC spending -- the 26th ranked 39th among the 435 House districts, and the 24th ranked 43rd. All those numbers are based on data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

With all that cash having been thrown around, a logical post-election question is: Who got their money's worth?

The Maplight Foundation has crunched all the numbers nationwide and come up with return-on-investment ratings for the super PACs that spent in congressional races. The percentages are determined by how much of the money they spent was in races in which the outcome produced the desired result.

Given that Democrats picked up two seats in the Senate and eight seats in the House, it's not suprising that Democratic super PACs received the highest return on investment.

The biggest winner among the groups that spent money on the Central Coast was also the group the spent the most money -- the House Majority PAC, which spent $1.5 million to help Democrat Julia Brownley in the 26th and $151,000 to help Rep. Lois Capps in the 24th. Boosted by the 100 percent return it received on those two races, its national return-on-investment rate was 70.7 percent.

Following is a list of the top super PAC spenders on those two races and their national returns on investment.

26th CD
-- House Majority PAC (Brownley), $1.5 million, 70.7 percent return
-- American Future Future Fund (Tony Strickland), $500,000, 5.6 percent return.
-- National Republican Congressional Committee (Strickland), $467,000, 31.9 percent return.
-- U.S. Chamber of Commerce (Strickland), $400,000, 6.9 percent return.
-- Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (Brownley), $233,000, 61.4 percent return.
-- SEIU (Brownley), $207,000, 67.8 percent return.

24th CD
-- Spirit of Democracy American (Abel Maldonado), $1.2 million, 37 percent return.
-- National Republican Congressional Committee (Maldonado), $798,000, 31.9 percent return.
-- Congressional Leadership Fund (Maldonado), $512,000, 60.4 percent return.
-- Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (Capps), $298,000, 61.4 percent return.
-- House Majority PAC (Capps), $151,000, 70.7 percent return.

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95 percent accurate
Over the last 25 presidential elections, Ventura County voters have backed the winner 24 times, or over 95 percent of the time. It is one of only a handful of counties in the nation that has been such a predictable bellwether.
about Timm Herdt
Timm Herdt
The Ventura County Star's Sacramento Bureau Chief Timm Herdt on state issues and politics from Sacramento to Ventura County. He can be contacted at therdt@vcstar.com
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