The Center for Responsive Politics (CRP) does the calculations:
Almost $4 billion will be spent for this year’s midterm election, the [CRP] is projecting. That figure makes this year’s election by far the most expensive midterm ever. The candidates and parties alone will combine to spend about $2.7 billion, while outside groups will likely spend close to $900 million on their own — a figure that veers close to the $1.3 billion spent by outside groups in 2012, when the hyper-expensive presidential race was fueling the fire. …
The 2010 midterm cost $3.6 billion; this one will run an estimated $333 million more than that. The congressional portion of the 2012 race cost about $3.6 billion as well.
Evan Osnos asks, “Will anything stop those sums from growing again in two years, and two years after that? “:
I live in Washington, so I am supposed to say no. A heat map of conversations in our nation’s capital this week would show that campaign-finance reform is generating about as much urgent attention as the disappearance of the honeybee. If the reflexive talking point in San Francisco is to bet on disruption, the conventional line in Washington is that the forces arrayed against change are the stronger ones.
And, yet, it’s hard not to sense that a combination of forces is making change, of some kind, unavoidable. At a moment when Americans are divided along party lines, they are united in their abject loathing of the United States Congress, which is on track this year to pass fewer laws than any Congress in history. In a Gallup poll, seven per cent of Americans reported having confidence in Congress, the lowest level that Gallup has ever recorded for any institution.
Michael Tomasky focuses on the dark money being pumped into the campaigns:
Here’s the situation. Outside spending—that is, the spending not by candidates’ own committees—may possibly surpass total candidate spending, at least in the competitive races, for the first time. And of that outside spending, an increasing amount is the category they call “dark” money, which is money whose sources and donors don’t have to be disclosed. I mean, don’t have to be disclosed. At all. That’s because these aren’t SuperPACs, which at least do have to disclose their donor lists, but are 501c4 “social welfare” (!) groups that don’t have to file anything with the Federal Elections Commission.
Cillizza isn’t holding his breath for change:
Money and politics always seem to find their way to one another — no matter what blockades are thrown in their paths. It’s hard to imagine elections getting any less expensive any time soon. Or any broad swath of the public really caring.