The 2020 elections will be more than twice as expensive as in 2016, according to a new analysis from the Center for Responsive Politics. The total amount of political spending is expected to hit $14 billion in 2020, with Democratic candidates and groups overwhelmingly spending the most.
The Center for Responsive Politics’ OpenSecrets.org said the amount of spending is far higher than it had anticipated, making it the most expensive election in history.
“The Center previously estimated the election would see nearly $11 billion in total spending. But an extraordinary influx of political donations in the final months — driven by a Supreme Court battle and closely watched races for the White House and Senate — pushed total spending past that $11 billion figure with weeks yet to go before Election Day,” states the Center for Responsive Politics’ analysis on OpenSecrets.org. “Even amid a pandemic, everyone is giving more in 2020, from ordinary individuals making small donations to billionaires cutting eight-figure checks to super PACs.”
Democratic presidential nominee Joseph R. Biden is poised to become the first billion-dollar presidential candidate, having already amassed $938 billion through Oct. 14, according to the report. President Trump raised $596 million during the same timeframe.
“Ten years ago, a billion-dollar presidential candidate would have been difficult to imagine,” said Sheila Krumholz, Center for Responsive Politics executive director, in a statement. “This cycle, we’re likely to see two.”
Among the leading professionals and industries bankrolling Mr. Biden are the securities and investment industries, with record donations from lawyers and educators. The center’s analysis said lawyers have broken their own donation records to boost Democrats, and more than 90% of donations from educators are going to Democrats for the first time.
Democratic candidates and groups spent $6.9 billion through mid-October compared to $3.8 billion from Republicans, according to the report. When spending from failed billionaire presidential candidates Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg is eliminated from the equation, Democrats’ total spending drops to $5.5 billion.
Much of the transfer of wealth to Democratic political candidates and groups has come from women and out-of-state donations. The center’s report noted that Democratic candidates challenging incumbent Senate Republicans in Arizona, Iowa and North Carolina have raised the “vast majority” of their money from out-of-state donations, and women are giving in much larger numbers.
“More than 1.5 million women have donated to federal committees, accounting for 44% of all donors. That’s up from 37% in 2016,” the center’s analysis says. “In the 2020 election, women have given $2.5 billion through mid-October, up from $1.3 billion throughout the entire 2016 election.”
The balance of power for donations has shifted dramatically since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010 that ensured political spending was protected speech, the center says.
“When Citizens United was decided 10 years ago, conservatives were the quickest to jump on the newly permissible outside groups as a way to facilitate huge donations,” said Sarah Bryner, research director at the Center for Responsive Politics, in a statement. “Now, liberal groups have more than made up the difference and are taking advantage of every opportunity available to get their message out.”