In this, the most expensive election cycle ever, the two parties are not only fighting for control of the House, Senate, and White House. They're also fighting a proxy war for dollars. Which side will come out on top?
House of Representatives
Since January 2011, the House's Democratic candidates have raised $423 million. Republicans candidates have raised $549 million over that time span. The minority Democrats' fund-raising committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, has had slightly better success than its individual members. The DCCC has raised about $14 million more than its Republican counterpart, the National Republican Congressional committee, since this cycle began in January 2011. That advantage continued last quarter, when the DCCC raised $35 million, its highest ever quarterly haul, while the RNCC raised $31 million.
Republican Senate candidates have also raised more than their Democratic counterparts this cycle, despite being the minority party in the chamber. They've pulled together $292 million since January 2011, while Democratic candidates have brought in $249 million. As is the case in the House, the Democratic Party's Senate fund-raising wing has raised slightly more than it Republican counterpart, but not enough to close the Republicans' overall lead there.
The top of the ticket is a little trickier to score. The Republican primary inflates that party's totals, and each candidate's joint-fundraising committee blurs the lines between the parties and the candidates. But in terms of President Barack Obama, GOP nominee Mitt Romney, and their official party allies, the Democrats come away on top. Obama alone has raised about $556 million, to Romney's $340 million. Their joint fundraising ventures have raised about the same amount for the presidential race this cycle.
These are the political groups that aren't officially associated with candidates or either party. Though they may not be official, their political activities make clear which side of the aisle they stand on. Because different groups file at different times, and because much more of their cash is spent on advertising and direct voter engagement (as opposed to funneling money to candidates or organizing efforts, as with parties), total spending is perhaps a better indicator of the money standings.
The presidential candidates' preferred super PACs fall into this category, as they are not wings of the national parties or the candidate's campaign committees. Romney's Restore Our Future, and Obama's Priorities USA Action are the largest super PACs of their respective parties. Restore has raised more than Priorities throughout the year, and in September became the first super PAC to raise $100 million. Obama's Priorities benefited from a late surge of support, bringing in $15 million last month, slightly more than Restore, which has spent more than twice as much for the cycle.
Non-profits are political groups that register with the IRS, not the Federal Election Commission. As a result, their donors and the vast majority of their spending are kept secret.
Here's an idea of the total raised by each party, plus the amount spent by independent groups favoring them.
*All figures courtesy of U.S. News analysis of federal election filings and Center for Responsive Politics data.
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Seth Cline is a reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow him on Twitter or reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.