The $7,000,000,000 campaign

Friday, February 1, 2013 - 7:53am

WASHINGTON — The 2012 campaign was expensive. Like, twenty-eight Boeing 787s expensive. Or seventy private islands expensive. Or 50 billion polio vaccines expensive.

In total, candidates, parties and outside groups spent $7 billion during the 2012 election cycle, a record breaking - though not surprising -- figure for campaign expenditures, according to the Federal Election Commission.

"That's not really unusual. They're all record breaking," FEC chairwoman Ellen Weintraub said during the panel's meeting Thursday.

Seven billion dollars is higher than an estimate offered in October by the Center for Responsive Politics, which predicted $6 billion would be spent on the 2012 contests.

According to the FEC's breakdown, candidates spent $3.2 billion in 2012. That includes all races, including the presidential contest and congressional battles across the country. Party committees, like the RNC and the DNC, spent $2 billion. Outside groups (including super PACs) also spent $2 billion, though that number is still being calculated by the FEC and could rise.

Weintraub said Thursday it could be the first time those outside groups outspent political parties. Of that outside spending, $1.2 billion was spent by traditional PACs, and $950 million by super PACs, which are allowed to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money as long as they don't coordinate with the campaigns.

And the numbers will continue to rise in coming years, according to Weintraub. Aside from the unlimited amounts that super PACs can raise, contributions to campaigns themselves are poised to spike. The FEC increased the limits on contributions to campaigns to $2,600 per election to keep up with inflation. The annual limit for individual contributions to party committees increased to $32,400.

In all, the FEC processed 11 million pages of documents filed during the 2012 calendar year, Weintraub said.

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