Outside spending on 2022 federal midterm elections topped $1 billion, surpassing the nearly $701.8 million spent by outside groups through Oct. 4 during the 2018 midterms.
With the 2022 elections just five weeks away, outside groups are on track for record federal spending in what OpenSecrets has projected will be the most expensive midterm ever. The Supreme Court’s landmark Citizens United v. FEC decision in 2010 paved the way for a sharp increase in outside spending.
At this point in the 2018 election cycle, outside groups supporting Democratic congressional candidates had spent more money than those backing Republicans. Democrats went on to flip the U.S. House during the so-called “Blue Wave,” but a “Red Wave” may be coming in 2022.
Conservative outside groups are currently outspending liberal ones 2-to-1 during the 2022 midterms, and Republicans are slightly favored to retake the U.S. House, polling analysis by FiveThirtyEight found. Democrats are slightly favored to keep control of the U.S. Senate, FiveThirtyEight projects, but races in battleground states have attracted massive outside spending this election cycle as Republicans push for control of the chamber.
The Pennsylvania Senate race, which the Cook Political Report returned to a toss-up on Tuesday, is currently the most expensive race this election cycle. Outside groups poured nearly $38.1 million into the Senate primaries in the Keystone State. The heated general election contest between Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D) and Mehmet Oz, the GOP nominee and former host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” has attracted over $66.8 million in outside spending from the May 17 primary through Oct. 4.
Outside spending by groups supporting or opposing Republican candidates drove the most expensive primary elections, including the Senate race in Pennsylvania. An outside spending surge and an endorsement from former President Donald Trump helped venture capitalist J.D. Vance clinch the GOP nomination in Ohio, where Cook Political Report rates the Senate race as leaning Republican.
Outside groups spent over $12.7 million during the primary supporting Vance, who is running against Rep. Tim Ryan (D–Ohio) for the open seat. Since the primary, outside groups have spent nearly $14.4 million supporting Vance and only about $5.1 million supporting Ryan.
Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel, who largely bankrolled the pro-Vance super PAC Protect Ohio Values, told guests at a fundraiser for Blake Masters that Thiel believes Vance is on track to win in Ohio. Thiel plans to shift fundraising efforts to support the GOP nominee for U.S. Senate in Arizona, CNBC reported. The race leans Democratic, the Cook Political Report projects, and Masters has lagged behind incumbent Sen. Mark Kelly (D–Ariz.) in Marist and Suffolk University polls released last week. Kelly also significantly outspent Masters ahead of the Arizona primary, according to OpenSecrets data, and reported millions more on hand heading into the general election.
Four of the five races that have attracted the most outside spending during the general election are considered toss-ups – Pennsylvania, Georgia, Nevada and Wisconsin. Outside groups have spent more money supporting candidates in these races than almost any other.
Sens. Raphael Warnock (D–Ga.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D–N.V.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) are all fighting to defend seats the other party hopes to pick up in the battle for control of the Senate.
In Georgia, Warnock is facing GOP nominee Herschel Walker, a former star running back and first-time federal political candidate. In Nevada, Cortez Masto is facing the state’s former Attorney General Adam Laxalt (R). Johnson is defending his seat against Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes (D) in Wisconsin.
The top-spending groups in the 2022 cycle were two Republican-aligned super PACs that together devoted nearly $181.5 million to retake majorities in both chambers of Congress.
The Senate Leadership Fund, which is linked to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), spent almost $95.7 million, while the Congressional Leadership Fund spent more than $85.8 million. The majority of expenditures were made opposing Democratic candidates.
The conservative group Club for Growth reported spending $59.2 million, and the libertarian advocacy group Americans for Prosperity, founded by David and Charles Koch, spent $37.6 million.
Only one Democratic-aligned group was among the top five in independent expenditures: Senate Majority PAC, a super PAC linked to Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). The group spent more than $62 million targeting prominent Republican candidates such as Johnson and Oz.
Another top spender, Protect Our Future PAC, founded and primarily funded by billionaire cryptocurrency mogul Sam Bankman-Fried, dedicated $24.2 million in support of Democratic primary candidates vying for House seats.
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