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The 2022 midterms are the priciest elections in US history; projected to reach close to $16.7 billion

The elections still cost about half the price of the 2020 race.

WASHINGTON — While we still don’t know how the balance of power may change, we are getting a better look at how the dollars were spent on this midterm election. We checked in with several sources to track the numbers–and learn more about what they mean.

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Was this the most expensive midterm election in American history?



After much speculation that it would be: yes, this is the most expensive midterm in history, and the final numbers aren’t even in yet.

RELATED: Election 2022: Dems show surprising strength; control of Congress unclear


“This will be the most expensive midterm in history,” said Sarah Bryner with the non-profit campaign money-tracker Open Secrets.

The Federal Elections Commission tracks campaign financing in federal races, and as of now we only have numbers through October 31st. But going back from there to January of 2021, the beginning of this House Term, the FEC tallies nearly $7.4 billion dollars in political spending. That includes candidates, party committees, and political action committees in federal races.

While it amounts to about half of the total disbursements the FEC tracked in the 2020 election, that’s more than was spent in the record-breaking 2018 midterms–even after adjusting for inflation–and the total amount is only expected to go up.

“We're expecting that to get overall at the end when all is said and done, just under nine billion,” said Bryner. “The last few weeks of a campaign are pretty expensive.”

The Open Secrets analysis found top-spending candidates are those running for Senate—and Democrat Rafael Warnock’s final numbers, the highest so far, won’t be in until after the Georgia Senate Runoff in December. 

Considering state races as well, for ballot items like initiatives and governor’s races, OpenSecrets projects total spending will be close to $16.7 billion. 

As for where the money goes? Experts say it’s been similar to previous elections. 

More went to media than any other category, and Erika Franklin Fowler, who runs the Wesleyan Media Project, says political messengers can’t afford not to hit all platforms.

“Every cycle, I feel like we're at this base to say, is this the year that television advertising will finally slow down and it'll be a tipping point? And maybe we're at that in some cycles this year, but it's still very heavy,” she said. “And then the other big trend, of course, is that the expansion beyond television into digital.”


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