CAMPAIGN INVESTMENTS THAT CAN CHANGE THE CYCLE…. When looking ahead to the midterms, it’s not uncommon to compare Democratic finances to Republican finances. Money isn’t always the deciding factor, but the edge the Democratic campaign committees have over their Republican counterparts may give the appearance of an advantage.

It’s worth emphasizing, then, that comparing the parties’ cash on hand leaves out a key consideration — outside groups that are planning to spend heavily, usually attacking Democrats. The L.A. Times had this report today, for example.

A conservative advocacy group Monday will kick off a huge ad campaign in 11 states and two dozen of the most competitive congressional races, slamming “wasteful federal spending.”

The $4.1-million ad buy from the Americans for Prosperity Foundation does not mention individual candidates in the November election. The script attacks Washington policies, describing the economic stimulus program as a failure and declaring that “wasteful spending must stop.”

The ads — part of a midterm election likely to be the most expensive on record — will run in 27 media markets through August. Democrats hold all but one of the 24 House seats in question, including 17 incumbents seeking reelection.

The television buys are in Arkansas, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin. Several of those, including Ohio, Pennsylvania and Missouri, also have tight Senate races. The group is expected to continue funding ad buys throughout the fall and across the country.

DCCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) described it as “the biggest ad buy I am aware of this summer.” The financing is secret, but the ads are believed to be financed, at least in part, by wealthy right-wing activist David Koch.

Voters seeing the ads won’t know who’s paying for them, or what the sponsoring group is all about, or whether there’s any merit to the arguments. But a $4.1-million ad buy is going to get noticed, and it’s going to affect public opinion.

What’s more, voters should expect to see a lot more of these efforts over the next 77 days, with business groups gearing up to crush as many Democratic candidates as possible.

The latest blatant signs of hostility come from coal executives who are considering starting up their own political operation to work against candidates they deem unfriendly to their interests. Their first three targets are all Democrats.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has already vowed to invest $75 million in the mid-term elections. And health insurers are also planning to play big in November, although the specifics remain in flux.

And all of this, of course, comes on the heels of Karl Rove’s American Crossroads operations, which is poised to raise and spend tens of millions of dollars just on the midterms.

Democratic House candidates may currently enjoy a 2-to-1 edge in cash on hand over Republicans, but once corporate, post-Citizens United money is factored into the equation, the advantage quickly disappears.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.