By Taylor Giorno and Pete Quist
The total cost of 2022 state and federal midterm elections is projected to exceed $16.7 billion, according to a new OpenSecrets analysis. Federal candidates and political committees are expected to spend $8.9 billion, while state candidates, party committees and ballot measure committees are on track to raise $7.8 billion.
Election-related spending at the federal level has already blown past the inflation-adjusted 2018 midterm record of $7.1 billion. State-level candidate, party committee and ballot measure committee expenditures could surpass the estimated 2018 midterm spending record of $6.6 billion, adjusted for inflation.
“No other midterm election has seen as much money at the state and federal levels as the 2022 elections,” said Sheila Krumholz, OpenSecrets’ executive director. “We’re seeing record-breaking totals spent on elections up and down the ballot.”
Federal candidates and political committees projected to spend $8.9 billion
Based on data reported to the Federal Election Commission through Nov. 1, just over $7.5 billion has already been spent on federal 2022 midterm elections. Federal candidates and political committees projected to spend $8.9 billion total on the 2022 midterm election.
The new federal election spending projection is slightly down from an earlier OpenSecrets estimate of $9.3 billion using data compiled through Sept. 20. This is primarily because of a quieter-than-expected pre-general period, where candidates spent about as much as they did in the 2018 midterm rather than continuing to spend at the higher rate they were earlier in the 2022 cycle.
“Aggressive fundraising in early 2021 and competitive Republican primaries contributed to the record-smashing totals we saw earlier this year, but as 2022 wears on we are seeing candidates report more pedestrian hauls,” said Sarah Bryner, OpenSecrets’ director of research and strategy. “This could be caused by anything from donor fatigue to financial pressures caused by inflation, and we have yet to see whether this is an anomaly or the beginning of the tapering off of the wild fundraising we’ve seen in the last four years.”
Political actors front-loaded federal spending during the 2022 midterm election. Record-breaking Republican primaries and significant 2021 spending in the wake of the Jan. 6 insurrection contributed to more of the 2022 cycle spending happening earlier in the cycle than is typical. Fundraising by federal candidates in 2021 was up $519 million from 2017, adjusted for inflation.
Donors also front-loaded their political contributions, giving more money to federal candidates and political committees earlier in the election cycle.
Democrats have outraised Republicans at the federal level this election cycle, but Republicans are outspending Democrats as the party pushes to regain control of the U.S. House and Senate. Democrats currently control the 100-person Senate by a narrow 50-member majority, with Vice President Kamala Harris as the tie-breaking vote.
Republicans are favored to win the House, and it’s a dead heat for the Senate, according to FiveThirtyEight.
Five of the 10 most expensive congressional races this election cycle are all U.S. Senate races rated toss ups by the Cook Political Report – Pennsylvania, Georgia, Arizona, Nevada and Wisconsin. These five races have also attracted the most outside spending during the general election, as outside groups that seek to sway voters for or against their preferred candidates targeted battleground states that could determine control of Congress.
Outside groups spent about $1.9 billion to influence federal elections through Oct. 31, blowing past the 2018 midterm outside spending record of $1.6 billion, adjusted for inflation. The biggest outside spenders are super PACs aligned with Republican and Democratic congressional leadership.
The top two spenders are Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R–Ky.) that has poured over $205.4 million into 2022 midterms, and Congressional Leadership Fund, a hybrid PAC affiliated with Republican House leadership that has spent more than $188.1 million through the same period.
The next two biggest spenders are Senate Majority PAC, a super PAC aligned with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D–N.Y.), and House Majority PAC, which is aligned with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Senate Majority PAC spent 131.5 million on 2022 federal elections through Oct. 31 and House Majority PAC has spent $93.6 million.
State candidates, party committees and ballot measure committees projected to raise $7.8 billion
In a report published in October, OpenSecrets used data collected through Oct. 4 to project that fundraising by state candidates, parties and ballot measure committees is on track to reach $7.5 billion during the 2022 election cycle. Using data collected through Oct. 24, OpenSecrets now projects total state candidate, party and ballot committee fundraising to reach $7.8 billion this cycle— an increase of about 5% — and a new record.
State candidates and party committees are projected to raise $6.4 billion during the 2022 cycle, with Democratic candidates and parties reaching $3 billion, their Republican counterparts reaching $3.3 billion and the remainder going to nonpartisan or third party candidates. The new projections are consistent with OpenSecrets’ October report.
OpenSecrets has tracked $1.7 billion raised by candidates for governor in the 2022 cycle as of Oct. 24, an increase of about $100 million since last month. Republican gubernatorial candidates are outraising Democrats 57% to 42%. The remaining 1% has been raised by third-party candidates.
Fundraising in races for attorney general remains essentially split between Republicans and Democrats, with Republicans raising about $80 million and Democrats about $79 million. Overall, major and third party candidates in attorney general races have raised over $161 million.
Secretary of state candidates have raised $55.4 million with Democrats taking the lead over Republicans, $31.8 million to $23.3 million, OpenSecrets’ analysis found.
Illinois’ secretary of state race has attracted more money than any other state , primarily because of significant fundraising by Democrat Alexi Giannoulias. Georgia, where elections have become increasingly contested in recent cycles, has the second highest fundraising in its secretary of state race so far. Republican incumbent Brad Raffensperger and Democrat Bee Nguyen are relatively evenly matched in terms of fundraising.
Some of the more expensive 2022 races to date feature election-denying Republican candidates who would oversee state elections if they win. For example, Republican Kristina Karamo — a 2020 election denier who claims to have witnessed widespread election fraud — is challenging incumbent Democrat Jocelyn Benson in Michigan’s secretary of state race. Arizona’s secretary of state race includes Ariz. state Rep. Mark Finchem, a Trump-backed Republican election denier running against Democratic nominee Adrian Fontes.
Ballot measure committees have experienced a late influx this year and are now projected to raise $1.4 billion, up from an earlier $1.2 billion estimate.
Because a very small number of ballot measure committees account for a large percentage of the money raised in the 2022 cycle and may or may not pour more money into these committees late in the race, ballot measure projections may continue to experience more significant shifts than candidate and party projections as data continues to come in.
Ballot measure money continues to be dominated by A few committees in California focused on measures to legalize online sports betting, legalize sports betting in Native casinos and provide additional restrictions on dialysis clinics.
As of Oct. 24, committees supporting and opposing Proposition 27, a measure to legalize online sports betting, had raised $327 million, up from the $203 million noted in last month’s report. That measure is being supported by online gaming companies and opposed by Native tribes. Some of that fundraising from the tribes is also being used to support Proposition 26, a measure to legalize sports betting at American Indian casinos. As of Oct. 24, fundraising around Proposition 26 was at $154 million, with support largely from tribes and opposition from other casinos and gaming companies.
Another measure in California to add staffing regulations to dialysis clinics has seen significant opposition from companies that run those clinics. Opponents of the measure have raised $86 million as of data collected by OpenSecrets Oct. 24, led by Davita. Altogether, OpenSecrets has so far documented $944 million in ballot measure committee fundraising through Oct. 24.
-Senior Researcher Doug Weber and Senior Data Analyst Brendan Glavin contributed to this report.