Midterm money: Record $1.3 billion spent by outside groups

Elections 2022

(NewsNation) — With about three weeks left until the 2022 midterms, outside groups have already poured a record $1.34 billion into this year’s federal elections, according to a new analysis from OpenSecrets.org.

The historic spending (not adjusted for inflation) is the most for a midterm cycle ever, surpassing the previous $1.32 billion high set in 2018, the D.C.-based nonprofit found.

With 22 days to go, this year’s total is sure to grow and could exceed the amount of money spent in a presidential election year.

“It is not out of the question for federal outside spending on 2022 midterm elections to exceed the current record set during the 2020 election cycle,” OpenSecrets.org wrote.

Outside spending has increased significantly since the Citizens United v. FEC Supreme Court decision in 2010, which blocked the government from restricting campaign donations by corporations, nonprofits, labor unions and other associations.

As recently as the 2006 midterms, outside spending on federal elections totaled $286 million — nearly 80% less than this year’s tally.

Most of this cycle’s spending has come from “super PACs” — political committees that can raise unlimited sums from corporations, unions and individuals, the report noted.

The Pennsylvania Senate Race between Democrat John Fetterman and Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz is the most expensive race, attracting nearly $140 million during both the primary and general elections so far.

The U.S. Senate race in Georgia is the only other contest to break the $100 million mark, OpenSecrets determined.

Other hotly contested Senate races in Nevada, Wisconsin and Arizona round out the top five costliest showdowns this cycle.

The majority of the money in all five races has gone toward messaging against, rather than for, Democratic and Republican candidates.

Various groups have spent about $45 million against Democrats in the Pennsylvania Senate race this general election season. On the other side of the aisle, about $31 million has gone against Republicans in Pennsylvania. Much of that funding goes toward negative television ads aimed at the opposing party.

OpenSecrets found the Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with Mitch McConnell (R-KY.), has poured more money (about $150 million) into the 2022 midterms than any other outside group this cycle.

The Senate Majority PAC, a super PAC aligned with Democratic Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY.) has spent $88 million on midterm election races.

This year TV political ad spending is expected to more than double from 2018, according to estimates from AdImpact, a data analytics firm.

Although the effectiveness of political TV ads continues to be the subject of debate, research suggests TV ad buys can make a difference in certain races.

“Despite increasing partisanship in the electorate, there are still persuadable voters that respond to television advertising — especially in down-ballot elections, where voters have less information about candidates,” a team of researchers concluded from a 2021 study published in the American Political Science Review.

According to Decision Desk HQ’s latest projections, Fetterman has a 63% chance of winning the Pennsylvania Senate seat while Oz has a 37% chance.

The two candidates are set to debate at 8 p.m. EDT Oct. 25.

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