Midterm election spending more than for ’04 race for White House

WASHINGTON – Wealthy Americans and legions of small donors are helping finance an onslaught of last-minute political advertising and a fierce voter turnout drive over the next three days, closing out a midterm election that is projected to cost more than $2.6 billion. Candidates, the national parties and advocacy groups are pumping millions of dollars into a few dozen House and Senate contests that could rearrange the nation’s political power structure. All this money has contributed to one of the greatest saturation of political and issue ads on television. Combined with money spent on ads for governor races and scores of ballot initiatives in the states, the spending on congressional advertising will exceed $2 billion this year, more than was spent in the 2004 presidential election. The influx of money has had its share of surprises. The pace of fundraising and spending reflects the closeness of this year’s election. Democrats need a net gain of 15 seats to win control of the House and six seats to regain control of the Senate. As of Oct. 18, the six main committees of the two national parties had raised about $770 million and House and Senate candidates had raised $1.14 billion, according to the Federal Election Commission. And they have continued to raise and spend money since. In 38 House districts deemed competitive, Republican incumbents have raised an average of about $2.5 million each and their Democratic challengers have raised an average of about $1.6 million. More surprising is the Democratic advantage in the 14 competitive races for open House seats now held by retiring Republicans. There Republicans have raised an average of $1.8 million and Democrats have amassed an average of $1.9 million each. In all 52 of those races, the two national parties have stepped in with contributions and independent spending averaging nearly $1.4 million for Republicans and more than $1 million for Democrats. The national parties have spent about $64 million in 10 Senate contests. Of those, the most competitive are races in Missouri, Virginia, New Jersey, Montana and Tennessee.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORESurfer attacked by shark near Channel Islands calls rescue a ‘Christmas miracle’The parties, particularly the Democrats, have adapted remarkably well to a 2002 campaign finance law that many thought would render them irrelevant. Democrats and Republicans have tapped a new vein of small donors and have taken advantage of higher contribution limits to squeeze more money out of the ultra-rich. Strikingly, the Democrats have used a late burst of fundraising to close a Republican cash advantage and to expand their hunt for competitive races. At the same time, challengers have raised more money, putting Republican incumbents at risk. And political action committees set up by labor, business and ideological groups have made a resurgence, raising hundreds of millions of dollars to target specific congressional races. One thing is for sure. While the 2002 campaign finance law, known as McCain-Feingold, banned unrestricted donations from labor, corporations and the wealthy to the political parties, it did not reduce the amount of money in the political arena. “The money would have increased no matter what,” said Steve Weissman, associate director at the Campaign Finance Institute, which tracks money in politics.