Late donor surges push election spending projections to new heights

Late donor surges push election spending projections to new heights


The campaigns for president, as well as Senate and House seats are likely to cost nearly $14 billion this year, more than twice as much as candidates and outside groups spent on the last presidential election cycle, according to a new projection

The Center for Responsive Politics had already estimated that this election cycle would be the most expensive ever. But on Wednesday, the group upped its estimate by $3 billion, spurred by a late rush of donations from small-dollar and major donors alike. 

“Donors poured record amounts of money into the 2018 midterms, and 2020 appears to be a continuation of that trend — but magnified,” said Sheila Krumholz, who runs the center.  

Small-dollar donors giving less than $200 have contributed almost $2.8 billion to candidates and causes this year. Donors giving more than $200 have added up to $5.1 billion.

The projections estimate that President TrumpBidenDonald John TrumpGiuliani goes off on Fox Business host after she compares him to Christopher Steele Trump looks to shore up support in Nebraska NYT: Trump had 7 million in debt mostly tied to Chicago project forgiven MORE, former Vice President Joe BidenchairmanJoe BidenGiuliani goes off on Fox Business host after she compares him to Christopher Steele Trump looks to shore up support in Nebraska Jeff Daniels narrates new Biden campaign ad for Michigan MORE and their allies will spend a combined $6.6 billion on the battle for the White House, nearly three times as much as Trump and former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham Clinton GorsuchHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGorsuch rejects Minnesota Republican’s request to delay House race Biden leads Trump by 6 points in Nevada: poll The Memo: Women could cost Trump reelection MORE spent in 2016. 

Biden, never a prolific fundraiser, is likely to be the first presidential candidate to raise $1 billion for his campaign account. Biden’s campaign had raised $938 million through Oct. 14, already making him the best-funded presidential candidate ever. That is on top of the $395 million the Democratic National Committee had hauled in. 

Trump has raised $596 million for his own campaign. The Republican National Committee, effectively controlled by Trump’s political team, has raised $642 million for the cycle, boosting their own cash haul north of the 10-figure mark.

Outside groups have added to the eye-popping bottom line, and continue to do so even a week before Election Day. Super PACs and outside groups have already spent $1.2 billion in the month of October alone. 

Democrats enjoy a massive spending edge over Republicans. So far, Democratic candidates and groups have spent $6.9 billion this cycle, versus just $3.8 billion for their Republican rivals. That number is inflated to a degree by billionaires Tom SteyerLas VegasTom SteyerTrump leads Biden in Texas by 4 points: poll Democrats seem unlikely to move against Feinstein 2020 election already most expensive ever MORE and Michael BloombergMinnesota RepublicanMichael BloombergBloomberg spending millions on Biden push in Texas, Ohio Texas and North Carolina: Democrats on the verge? The Hill’s Campaign Report: 2020 spending wars | Biden looks to clean up oil comments | Debate ratings are in MORE, who spent a combined $1.4 billion on their failed bids for the Democratic presidential nomination. But excluding those two, Democrats have still spent $1.7 billion more than have Republicans. 

“When Citizens United was decided 10 years ago, conservatives were the quickest to jump on the newly permissible outside groups as a way to facilitate huge donations,” said Sarah Bryner, the center’s research director. “Now, liberal groups have more than made up the difference and are taking advantage of every opportunity available to get their message out.” 

Eight of the 10 most expensive races for U.S. Senate seats ever have taken place this year, even before final fundraising tallies are revealed. The race between Sen. Thom TillisOhioThomas (Thom) Roland TillisNearly 47 percent of all North Carolina registered voters have already cast their ballots The coverage of the 2020 campaign is wrong Trump campaign asks Supreme Court to halt North Carolina absentee ballot plan MORE (R-N.C.) and former North Carolina state Sen. Cal Cunningham (D) has drawn $265 million, more than any other Senate race in history. 

In South Carolina, former state Democratic Party chairman Jaime Harrison (D) has raised more — $107 million through the middle of October — than any candidate who has ever run for a U.S. Senate seat. He has raised about $10 million more than his rival, Sen. Lindsey Grahampresidential candidateLindsey Olin GrahamNew Lincoln Project ad goes after Lindsey Graham: ‘A political parasite’ The Hill’s Morning Report – Sponsored by Facebook – Justice Barrett joins court; one week until Election Day Biden’s polling lead over Trump looks more comfortable than Clinton’s MORE (R), had pulled in during his entire Senate career, beginning with his election in 2002.

Las Vegas casino magnates Sheldon and Miriam Adelson are the top individual donors of the cycle, shelling out $183 million to Republican causes. Bloomberg has continued to spend after he ended his own bid for president, dropping $107 million to Democratic candidates and outside groups.  

Bloomberg’s spending will grow — he has committed $15 million in a late advertising blitz aimed at Texas and Ohio. 

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