Research desk responds: Mo' money, mo' politics
By Dylan Matthews
How much do we as a country spend on elections and lobbying, respectively?
OpenSecrets.org is the place to go for this sort of data. They keep records of what an average winning House or Senate candidate spent from 1990 to 2008, which for our purposes I've adjusted to be in 2008 dollars, so that the comparison is fair. Here is how average spending has changed over that period:
While the Senate data is more erratic, both bodies' races are seeing overall increases in spending. The House data is somewhat obscured in the above graph; here's a closer look:
Though the increase is very gradual, House spending has more than doubled over this period. The composition of campaign funds, interestingly, has not changed much. Here is how the average campaign's take from political action committees (PACs) relative to total spending has changed since 1990:
The data jumps around, but generally the House percentage has hovered around 40-45 percent, and the Senate percentage somewhere between 15 and 25 percent. There are fewer data points for presidential campaign spending over this period, but the growth is still dramatic. Here is how total presidential campaign spending has changed since the 1992 race:
The rate is exponential, and far faster than the growth in House or Senate race spending. MSPMatt also asked about lobbying spending, which OpenSecrets.org tracks as well. Here's how lobbying spending in 2009 broke down by sector:
Two things to note here. First, the numbers for the pharmaceutical and financial/insurance industries are probably higher than usual, both because of the health care battle and because financial reform began being considered in 2009. Second, two groups commonly focused upon in lobbying and interest group discussions - single-issue groups like the NRA or Sierra Club, and labor unions - spend far less than corporations do. While money is an imperfect measure of influence, the notion that public interest groups and unions can serve as a counterbalance to corporations appears to be an exaggeration, at best.
June 24, 2010; 4:25 PM ET
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