The Price of Power
If you thought running for office was expensive, just wait until you see the price tags for 2010.
This year’s candidates for the Senate and House of Representatives are on track to make this the most expensive election season in history.
According to the Federal Election Commission, congressional candidates have so far raised more than $1.2 billion and spent nearly $850 million in this current election cycle. And the fundraising will only continue to heat up as we get closer to the polls. This means today’s candidates are on pace to outspend the $1.4 billion doled out by candidates during the 2008 election season, and the amount spent in each election before that.
We looked through the FEC’s most recent data on campaign spending in the current election season to find the 10 most expensive congressional campaigns. The data is based on spending reports filed with the FEC from Jan. 1, 2009 until now. We decided to omit candidates like Scott Brown and Steve Pagliuca, who ran in special elections earlier in the year, and focused solely on those candidates who have run or been eliminated in the current campaign season. All of the top 10 most expensive congressional campaigns were Senate races, which generally cost and attract more national attention than House races.
Photo Credit: hellohowareyoudoing
10th Most Expensive: Kirsten Gillibrand
Total Disbursed: $6,965,968
Back in early 2009, Gov. David Patterson (D-N.Y.) surprised many in the political world by nominating Kirsten Gillibrand to replace Hillary Clinton as the state’s second senator. But despite her status as a newcomer, Gillibrand managed to raise nearly $9 million after a little more than a year in office. So far, she has spent nearly $7 million on her campaign - $3 million of which has been spent in the past two months alone – in order to fend off a Republican establishment eager to take back her seat. However, it’s unclear whether she really needs to toss out all that money. Polls so far show that she is likely to win, and win big, in November.
Photo Credit: gillibrand.house.gov
9th Most Expensive: Harry Reid
Total Disbursed: $8,152,222
Despite being the current majority leader of the U.S. Senate and a strong ally and friend of President Obama, Harry Reid faces an incredibly tough re-election this summer to represent Nevada. Reid is running against Sharon Angle, a Republican associated with the Tea Party movement. In recent weeks, polls have gone back and forth about which candidate is up and which is down.
It may take every penny of the $8 million Reid has spent (and then some) to secure his re-election this time around.
Photo Credit: reid.senate.gov
8th Most Expensive: Raphael Hermon
Total Disbursed: $8,155,958
Not familiar with Raphael Herman? Don’t worry, no one is.
Herman is a little known dark horse candidate who ran for Mayor of Miami Beach, Fla., last year, only to gain some bad press when he showed up “bloodied and screaming” near a fundraiser event featuring President Obama. Needless to say, he did not win that race.
In April of this year, Herman filed papers to run as a democratic candidate for a Florida Senate seat. However, a few months later, Herman apparently amended his forms and applied instead to run for president in 2012. Yet, somehow his “campaign” has spent more than $8 million. It’s unclear where all that money comes from and what it goes toward.
Still, he may be in need of more funds. His campaign is listed as having just $18 cash on hand (yes, eighteen). Something tells me it takes more than to win an election, whether it’s a senate seat or the presidency.
This may not be the best example of campaign costs rising. However, if you’re curious what it takes to run for office, you should check out Herman’s filings with the FEC.
Photo Credit: Thoth, God of Knowledge
7th Most Expensive: Marco Rubio
Total Disbursed: $8,323,585
Marco Rubio, the former House Speaker in Florida, is currently running for Senator in Florida, in what has proved to be one of the most watched races in the country. Rubio, a Republican, is facing Rep. Kendrick Meek (D) and Gov. Charlie Crist, who recently changed his party affiliation from Republican to Independent.
Photo Credit: myfloridahouse.com
6th Most Expensive: Blanche Lincoln
Total Disbursed: $8,431,989
Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) has been in a fight for her life to get re-elected. She barely survived a primary a few weeks back to get her party’s nomination and some polls show that she is miles behind her Republic opponent, John Boozman. Fortunately, Lincoln has the benefit of being an incumbent with access to some serious fundraising power and has so far spent nearly $8.5 million.
Photo Credit: bloguide.congress.gov
5th Most Expensive: John McCain
Total Disbursed: $8,991,458
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the former Republican nominee for President, spent millions to fend off a primary challenge from J.D. Hayworth, a former Republican representative. According to the FEC, McCain’s campaign coughed up nearly $9 million to secure his re-election, though other estimates put the number as high as $21 million. Talk about a costly victory.
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4th Most Expensive: Carly Fiorina
Total Disbursed: $9,695,620
Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett Packard, has for weeks been neck and neck with Barbara Boxer, the Democratic incumbent, in the race to be a California senator. Fiorina has so far dumped nearly $10 million into the campaign and will likely spend even more before voters hit the polls. However, it shouldn’t be too surprising that Fiorina is willing to spend big. After all, she did pick up one of the largest CEO severance packages in history.
Photo Credit: scriptingnews
3rd Most Expensive: Arlen Specter
Total Disbursed: $11,063,758
Arlen Specter had served as a Pennsylvania senator for three decades as a Republican, but then decided to run as a Democrat in this current election. Unfortunately for Specter, even with millions of dollars at his disposal and the full support of President Obama, he could not even make it past the primaries.
Photo Credit: specter.senate.gov
2nd Most Expensive: Jeff Greene
Total Disbursed: $14,433,984
What a waste of money.
Jeff Greene, a billionaire real estate investor, tried and failed to win the Republican nomination to be Florida’s next senator, but ultimately, all his money could not persuade voters that he was the best choice. Greene was so frustrated after losing, that he actually threatened to sue two Florida newspapers for $500 million for inaccuracies and just generally making him look bad.
Photo Credit: jeffgreene.com
The Most Expensive: Linda McMahon
Total Disbursed: $21,349,619
Linda McMahon knows how to play rough. This Republican candidate for senator in Connecticut is the former CEO of World Wresting Entertainment. She has so far spent more than $20 million to defeat Democratic nominee Richard Blumenthal and take over the post currently held by Democrat Chris Dodd, who decided not to run for re-election. This contest, more than any other, may decide something even more important than who gets to be Connecticut’s new senator. It may decide whether money really has the power to win an election.
Photo Credit: Linda McMahon for Senate
Other Notable Races
As much as spending from Congressional candidates has increased in recent years, it is still eclipsed by what several mayors and governors have spent during the past year.
Last year, Michael Bloomberg spent $104 million to secure a third term as the mayor of New York. Not to be outdone, Meg Whitman, the former head of eBay, has spent $118 million so far in her race to be California’s next governor, and there is no sign that she will stop spending any time soon.
Photo Credit: Meg Whitman