THE MONEY CHASE

2 minute read
TIME

The cost of a congressional campaign has climbed sixfold over the past two decades. More often than not, incumbents outspend their challengers, and usually the candidates who spend the most win. Here are the main contenders for House and Senate seats in your district, along with how much money they’ve raised–both overall and from political-action committees

To be sure, the amount of money spent on a bid for the House or the Senate doesn’t always determine the outcome. Even the nearly $30 million effort by California Republican Michael Huffington in 1994 could not unseat Dianne Feinstein in the Senate race. But judging by the ever rising flood of dollars in and out of campaign coffers across the country, the odds still favor a well-funded contender–especially an incumbent. The average victor in a 1994 Senate race spent more than $4.5 million; losers spent around $3.4 million each. Half a million was the going price for a seat in the House, five times what it was in 1976.

Television, polling, political consultants, printing and postage account for this increased spending, as does fund raising itself. Major players in the fund-raising game are the thousands of political-action committees, ordained by Congress to funnel contributions from special-interest groups to political candidates. In 1976 PACs were responsible for 28% of the contributions to House incumbents; in 1994 their portion had risen to more than 45%.

Harder to calculate is the effect of so-called soft-money contributions–funds donated by wealthy individuals, unions and corporations to political parties that indirectly benefit candidates’ campaigns. Federal Election Commission figures indicate that the soft money in this year’s election may be three times what it was in 1994.

In the chart below, TIME on Capitol Hill offers a comparison of the amount of money raised by the leading congressional candidates seeking your vote on Nov. 5.

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