The Virginia Senate race between former governors George Allen and Tim Kaine has topped $52 million in spending by outside groups, including nonprofits that do not disclose their donors, making it by far the most popular congressional race in the country among the newly legalized independent groups.
It is followed by the Wisconsin Senate race, at $43 million, and the Ohio Senate race, at $35 million.
The outside groups may be having even more impact on some House races, where a little money can go a lot further.
Despite being outspent overall, liberal groups have had a surprising impact by focusing on House races where their money goes further.
The average congressional district has 750,000 people, meaning special interests in Ohio’s 16th District have spent $13 for every man, woman and child to influence that outcome — and that doesn’t even include the money raised by the candidates themselves.
The most expensive House races:
• Ohio’s 16 District, $9.8 million. In a race with two incumbents, public employees union AFSCME has spent $2.1 million backing Betty Sutton over Jim Renacci, and the House Majority PAC, backed largely by unions, has done the same.
• Minnesota’s 8th District, $9 million. The House Majority PAC has spent $1.5 million opposing first-term Republican Rep. Chip Cravaack in his battle with Rick Nolan. But one union group, the Lunch Pail Republicans, has made the rare move of supporting the Republican incumbent with $37,000.
• Illinois’ 17th District, $8.9 million. The House Majority PAC has spent $600,000 opposing first-term Rep. Bobby Schilling in his battle with Cheri Bustos.
• California’s 52nd District, $8.6 million. House Majority PAC has spent $900,000 opposing Republican Rep. Brian Bilbray, and AFSCME has spent $400,000.