The five most expensive Senate races of 2022 have seen nearly $1.3 billion in spending across the primary and general elections, according to OpenSecrets, a staggering sum that speaks to the massive amounts of money flooding the political system.
Leading the way is the Pennsylvania Senate race, where Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz are squaring off in the general election. All told, nearly $375 million has been spent on the race this cycle, OpenSecrets found.
Here’s how the other races in the top five stack up in terms of total spending:
1. Pennsylvania: $373,605,258
2. Georgia: $271,351,786
3. Arizona: $234,577,515
4, Wisconsin: $205,791,615
5. Ohio: $202,117,075
The explosion in spending on Senate races over the last few elections is absolutely staggering.
Take Pennsylvania, which was also the most expensive Senate race of the 2016 cycle, when Republican Pat Toomey was running for reelection. Total spending in that race was around $179 million, according to OpenSecrets – less than half the amount spent on the 2022 contest.
The twin runoffs in Georgia in the 2020 cycle set new records for total Senate race spending. The race between Republican David Perdue and Democrat Jon Ossoff attracted $515 million in total spending, while the contest between Republican Kelly Loeffler and Democrat Raphael Warnock saw $411 million.
The next most expensive Senate race that cycle took place in North Carolina, which didn’t have a runoff like in Georgia. More than $300 million total was spent on that race, OpenSecrets’ tally shows, where Republican Sen. Thom Tillis went on to win another term.
The spending on Senate races is equivalent – or even higher – to what presidential candidates spend on individual states. And much of it is driven by spending by outside groups – usually super PACs closely connected to party leaders.
In this year’s Pennsylvania race, for example, more than $240 million was spent by outside groups – dwarfing the $133 million spent by candidates in the race.
In fact, in four of the five most expensive races this cycle, outside groups accounted for more of the spending than the candidates themselves. (The one exception was Ohio, where several self-funders ran for the Republican nomination.)
What numbers like these suggest is that attempts – earlier this century – to lessen the impact of money in politics have failed utterly. There is more money than ever before, and it’s difficult to track where some of the money, spent by nonprofit groups that aren’t required to disclose their donors, comes from.
And by next election cycle, the price tag for Senate races is only going to keep going up.