The combined cost of the 2010 elections for the House of Representatives will total well more than $1 billion, according to a new analysis by a nonpartisan watchdog group.
Public Campaign Action Fund is pegging the final price tag for this year's House elections at a jaw-dropping $1.45 billion dollars, a 54 percent increasing in spending from 2008.
The total is not set in stone. The group came to the figure after analyzing data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics through the first three quarters of this year. But the trend lines all portend a historically pricey election and not just on the spending side. House candidates are also on pace to raise $1.275 billion, up from the $921.5 million in 2008 (the spending totals are higher then the fundraising totals because projections are based on 3rd quarter data, when candidates had yet to spend all the cash they've raised).
"Candidates are raising more money in 2010 than ever before, and spending it at a much quicker pace than 2008," said David Donnelly, director of Public Campaign Action Fund's Campaign Money Watch project. "With all the attack ads, candidates have to spend more time dialing for dollars and less time talking with voters. They have to feed the beast -- the endless raising and spending for campaigns -- that is devouring our democracy."
For all the discussion about runaway spending, there has been relatively little concern (at least from Republican candidates) about a campaign finance system that is breaking the bank. Take for instance, the defining symbol of government waste from the 2008 election: the $1 million earmark that then-Sen. Hillary Clinton had put aside for a Woodstock Concert Museum in upstate New York. In 2010, each of the two main parties' congressional candidates (870 in total) could place a Woodstock memorial in their own district and they would still fall $580 million (or $660,000 per candidate) short of the total price tag of House elections.
The explosion of fundraising and spending has, indeed, been one of the defining features of the 2010 election cycle. And it should be considered, as Donnelly notes, independent from the related story of the rise of anonymous donors. The figures that Public Campaign Action Fund projects include only the money being sent to and spent by candidate committees.