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Why Candidates Are Spending a Record $4 Billion on the Midterms

Stephanie Asymkos

All 435 House seats are up for re-election in early November, and Democrats and Republicans are burning through money like never before in hopes of controlling Congress. The 2018 midterm elections have already broken records: the most female candidates running, the most first-time candidates running and the most money spent on campaigns.

Midterm election spending continues as both parties push the financial envelope. As of now, 2014 holds the record for spending at $3.7 billion. With weeks to go, experts estimate the total cost of 2018’s political throwdowns to be over $4 billion.

Click to read about which states raised over $100 million in midterm elections money.

This year’s cash injection can be traced to Americans in the highest echelons of wealth. Several elites have pumped their money into super political action committees — a less restricted land where campaign finance reform rules generally don’t apply and there’s no donation maximum.

With six- and seven-figure donations on both sides, the election has become an arms race among the elite and calls into question the usefulness and sanctity of the general election process. The practice has the power to alienate voters who think their vote won’t even matter because the candidate who spends the most money can leverage a significant advantage. Here’s why the 2018 midterm elections are the most expensive ever.

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Millionaires Are Running and Self-Funding

Perhaps inspired by Trump, several millionaires are seeking office and have self-funded their campaigns. Gov. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) has fronted over $20 million of his own money to fund his Senate campaign in an effort to unseat Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.). Similarly, former pharmaceutical executive Bob Hugin’s (R-N.J.) Senate bid is almost fully self-funded — he’s spent $15.5 million and raised just $1.2 million from others.

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Influence of Mega-Donors

Politically savvy billionaires have been using their wallets in an effort to influence elections. The uber-wealthy and ultra-connected are funneling cash into key races by backing certain candidates and pledging party allegiances. Wealthy donors, as defined by their contributions of over $1 million, have contributed over half of the $640 million in super political action committees, according to The Washington Post.

Among the elite are:

  • Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg has pledged $80 million earmarked for Democrats running in Congress.
  • Though not quite $1 million, Elon Musk’s controversial attempt at a quiet donation of nearly $40,000 to a Republican political action committee was ill-fated, and the billionaire caught flack across various media.
  • Casino executive Sheldon Adelson and his wife Miriam, a physician, gave a total of $55 million to various political action committees to ensure Republican control.

Who Else Is Getting Involved? See How Much Facebook and Other Big Brands Are Spending to Influence Your Vote

Where the Midterm Elections Money Is Going

Experts predict a record volume of TV spots for this race, with over $1 billion being laid out for political television ads. For comparison, that’s more than twice the amount of money advertisers spent on commercial airtime during the 2018 Super Bowl.

Click to read more about how Trump’s new limos and helicopters cost you billions.

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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: Why Candidates Are Spending a Record $4 Billion on the Midterms