Political groups independent of candidates spent more than $814 million in the 2014 elections, a record for congressional midterms and double that spent in 2010, according to Federal Election Commission records.
As reported by Derek Willis in the New York Times, the spending spike is a direct result of the 2010 Citizens United SCOTUS decision, which led to increased expenditure by super PACs – political organizations that can accept unlimited contributions.
PACs were part of the move by Democrats to retain control of the Senate, as well as a successful effort by Republicans to retake it.
The $814 million figure, Willis writes, includes money to Democratic and Republican Party committees supporting House and Senate candidates, groups banned by federal law from coordinating with the candidates they back.
However, setting aside money from those committees, the remaining $605 million would still be a record for midterm spending.
In addition, that figure does not take into account a wide range of groups, mostly non-profits, which spent money to influence voters without openly advocating a particular candidate.
A majority of the independent spending in 2014 — around $514 million — was for Senate races, the Times notes, nearly twice the $277 million (adjusted for inflation) spent in 2010 by outside groups in Senate contests.
Although it is less than the money spent during an election cycle by national, state and local party committees combined, it is starting to approach the spending by Senate candidates. Preliminary totals show that in 2012, Senate candidates spent $773 million (adjusted to 2014 dollars).
Independent spending may have been high in the recent battle for the Senate; it will undeniably climb in the presidential election year of 2016. In 2012, independent spending topped off at over $1.2 billion, four times the amount spent in 2008.