The barrage of political advertising we’ve already seen during this election season is making some people wonder how much more we might see if one or two top-of-the-ticket races go to runoffs. The answer: a lot more. A whoooooooole lot more.
The Washington Post, using data from the Center for Responsive Politics, looked at independent expenditures in this election cycle’s congressional races — spending by people other than candidates (and not only the kind of outside groups at the heart of the Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court). One takeaway: Although outside groups have already spent some $26 million in Georgia, that’s only the ninth-highest amount among this year’s Senate races.
Spending in North Carolina ($77 million), Colorado ($69 million) and Iowa ($59 million) dwarfs the amount here, while states like Alaska and Arkansas ($39 million apiece), Kentucky ($33 million), and Michigan and New Hampshire ($28 million apiece) also have seen more spending. And the spending has been pretty even on a partisan basis: In the top 10 states (which also includes Louisiana), $367 million has been spent to boost or attack a Republican or Democrat. The Republican benefited 52.6 percent of the time and the Democrat 47.4 percent of the time, a difference of $19 million across those 10 races.
Over the past week or so, I’ve heard numbers as high as $50 million thrown around as possible spending totals just in Georgia, just for the Senate runoff, if control of the Senate were at stake. That’s a lot of commercials and mailers and robo-calls. My main problem with that prospect is the quality of the messages we’re likely to hear from them, not the quantity of messages.
But if you’re the sort who needs the smelling salts when you hear about such large amounts of money being spent in politics, consider that the total cost of this midterm election is estimated by the Center for Responsive Politics to be about $3.67 billion, or slightly more than was spent in 2010. Courtesy of the Washington Examiner, here are but a few things Americans spent more money on last year alone than will be spent on this two-year election cycle:
1. Beer ($83 billion in 2013)
2. Lottery tickets ($69 billion)
3. Pornography ($11 billion)
4. Taco Bell ($6 billion)
5. Potato chips ($6 billion)
6. Collegiate sports merchandise ($5 billion, none of which will go to student-athletes)
You can add all sorts of other items, from clothes to food other than Taco Bell and potato chips, to the list. In a country whose economic production will surpass $33 trillion in 2013-14, the $3.67 billion spent on political campaigning is a rounding error.