The 2012 presidential and congressional elections will cost roughly $5.8 billion, making it the most expensive in U.S. history. That’s according to estimates by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, which predicts about a 7 percent increase from 2008′s $5.4 billion price tag. The presidential race, alone, CRP estimates, will cost about $2.5 billion.
$5.8 billion! That’s nearly twice the state of Wyoming’s entire 2012 budget!
The biggest difference in this year’s election is the sharp rise in contributions – and influence – from outside groups, namely Super PACs. Remember that the current races – both presidential and congressional – are the first in which the new, post-Citizens United rules will be in effect. While outside spending groups did exist in previous presidential election cycles, significant legal developments, including the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision – which determined that political spending is a form of protected speech and lifted spending limitations for corporations and unions – have led to a rapid rise in super PACs and other outside spending groups that don’t have to disclose their donors. And that means a deluge of negative campaign ads paid for by organization’s you’ve probably never heard of.MapLight, another nonpartisan group, has done an exceptional job tracking and visualizing the astronomical expenditures of the biggest Super PACs out there. Check out their up-to-date interactive charts and maps below to get a sense of who the big cash cows are and which candidates they’re putting their dollars behind.
The $5 million club: a running record of the biggest Super PACs
The head honchos: who funded what, how much, and when?