Chart of the Day: Midterm Money in Politics – Money is Speech?

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The total cost of 2022 state and federal midterm elections is projected to exceed $16.7 billion, according to a new OpenSecrets analysis. Federal candidates and political committees are expected to spend $8.9 billion, while state candidates, party committees, and ballot measure committees are on track to raise $7.8 billion.

Election-related spending at the federal level has already blown past the inflation-adjusted 2018 midterm record of $7.1 billion. State-level candidate, party committee, and ballot measure committee expenditures could surpass the estimated 2018 midterm spending record of $6.6 billion, adjusted for inflation. See this in the chart below and learn more here.

Based on data reported to the Federal Election Commission through Nov. 1, just over $7.5 billion has already been spent on the federal 2022 midterm elections. Federal candidates and political committees are projected to spend $8.9 billion in total on the 2022 midterm election. See the trend growth in the chart below.

Five of the ten most expensive congressional races this election cycle are all U.S. Senate races rated toss-ups by the Cook Political Report – PennsylvaniaGeorgiaArizonaNevada, and Wisconsin. These five races have also attracted the most outside spending during the general election, as outside groups that seek to sway voters for or against their preferred candidates targeted battleground states that could determine control of Congress. See this in the chart below.

Of the top-spending Senate hopefuls, just two of the top ten candidate campaigns are Republicans. This is surprising as Cook Political Report has 21 Senate races listed as leaning Republican and just 14 leaning Democrat. The only races to have both candidates in the top ten highest spending candidates are the Pennsylvania senate, with Mehmet Oz (R) and John Fetterman (D), and Florida Senate, with Val Demings (D) and Marco Rubio (R) spending in the top ten. See this in the chart below and learn more here.

While candidate spending was dominated by Democrats, coordinated buys seemed to be dominated by Republicans. Seven of the top ten highest spending coordinated buys in Senate races were from Republicans. Coordinated buys are spending typically coordinated with a presidential campaign or the party’s financial apparatus. This would mean that the candidate would not have full control over the spending.

Emblematic of what happened in many of the key 2022 midterm races, for example, in Georgia, Raphael Warnock (D) outspent his opponent, Herschel Walker (R), by almost $13M. It is difficult to win with this kind of campaign spending.

Then there is this.

According to a recent analysis by the Washington Post, $1 billion of these campaign funds can be attributed to the top 50 individual donors. Though the majority of individual donors were Republicans, the majority of this money went to coordinated buys. See this in the chart below and learn more here.

What is interesting about the above chart is that the second-largest Democrat was Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF), who is now embroiled in the Crypto FTX scandal. Was the entire FTX scandal all part of a plan to fund Democrats for the 2022 midterms?

What are some takeaways from all this data?

  • Though both major political parties spent about the same amount of money, Democratic candidates in key races had more money and more money in direct control for their campaigns.
  • Considering that the opposing political party typically gains in midterm elections, the RNC has done an abysmal job of managing the campaign monies that they have received – regardless of candidate quality.

One has to remember – top campaign spenders win 88% of the time. Is money speech?

See more Chart of the Day posts.

By Tom Williams

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