Outside Spending Reached $400 Million in 2010 Election

Independent expenditures were nearly 60 percent higher than the 2006 midterms.


Negative ads are unavoidable during election season, but this year mailboxes and airwaves seemed even more crowded with political attacks than usual. Non-candidate spending on communications advocating the election or defeat of particular candidates reached nearly $400 million this cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan campaign finance watchdog organization. That's nearly 60 percent higher than the $268 million spent on the 2006 midterm elections. As a result of a series of recent Supreme Court cases dealing with campaign finance, non-candidate entities like party committees, special interest groups, and political action committees could raise and spend unlimited money on these communications, known as "independent expenditures." These expenditures can go toward advertising on TV, radio, and the Internet, as well as phone banks, canvassing, and mailings. But voters in some districts saw the effects of the new campaign finance rules more than others. Voters in Colorado and Pennsylvania were perhaps the most inundated with ads opposing particular candidates. The Senate candidates in those two states were the top four most-attacked candidates of the 2010 midterm election cycle, as measured in dollars spent on independent expenditures opposing them. In House races, the Rust Belt region saw the most money spent on these political messages--seven of the ten most-attacked House candidates were from districts in Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

Below are the ten most-attacked Senate and House candidates of the 2010 election cycle.


Name State Party Incumbent/Challenger/Open Amount Spent Won/Lost
Ken Buck CO R Challenger $11,812,559 Lost
Michael Bennet CO D Incumbent 10,790,972 Won
Joe Sestak PA D Open 10,703,014 Lost
Pat Toomey PA R Open 10,430,022 Won
Alexander Giannoulias IL D Open 8,508,180 Lost
Patty Murray WA D Incumbent 8,012,545 Won
Harry Reid NV D Incumbent 7,174,629 Won
Dino Rossi WA R Challenger 7,021,145 Lost
Mark Kirk IL R Open 6,018,115 Won
Sharron Angle NV R Challenger 4,452,584 Lost


Name State District Party Incumbent/Challenger/Open Amount Spent Won/Lost
Tim Walberg MI 7 R Challenger $3,841,050 Won
James Renacci OH 16 R Challenger 3,614,612 Won
Gary Peters MI 9 D Incumbent 2,817,837 Won
Joe Heck NV 3 R Challenger 2,654,520 Won
John Boccieri OH 16 D Incumbent 2,447,059 Lost
Harold Johnson NC 8 R Challenger 2,379,327 Lost
Mark Schauer MI 7 D Incumbent 2,331,467 Lost
Michael Fitzpatrick PA 8 R Challenger 2,263,970 Won
Gary McDowell MI 1 D Open 2,217,679 Lost
John Spratt SC 5 D Incumbent 2,164,512 Lost

Based on U.S. News analysis of data obtained from the Federal Election Commission on November 4, 2010. Data does not reflect independent expenditures made in special elections.