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Midterm U.S. Election Spending May Reach $4 Billion After Touching Record

The 2010 election will be the most expensive non-presidential contest, and spending might reach $4 billion by Election Day, a Washington research group said.

The Center for Responsive Politics reported today that federal candidates, parties and outside groups have spent more than $2.8 billion, matching the figure from the 2006 midterm elections with a week to go in the campaign.

If the center’s projection of a $4 billion election holds, it would be the third most expensive ever, trailing only the 2004 and 2008 presidential contests.

“We knew this election could make spending history, but the rate of growth is stunning,” Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the center, said in a statement. “This kind of money in 2010 makes the 2000 presidential election -- hardly a distant memory -- look like a bargain at $3.1 billion.”

Helping fuel the growth in spending is the large number of competitive Senate and House races and the proliferation of outside groups, such as Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, that don’t disclose their donors.

In addition, the Federal Election Commission approved the creation of political action committees that can spend money independently of campaigns and can take in unlimited corporate, union and individual donations to pay for their operations. These groups are required to disclose their donors.

Spending on advertising in U.S. Senate races between Jan. 1 and Oct. 20 rose to $314 million from almost $157.5 million during the same period in 2008, and in House races to more than $210 million in 2010 from almost $142 million in 2008, according to an analysis by the Wesleyan Media Project of data from Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group.

“Almost any way you look at it, the advertising is up -- and way up -- this year,” said Travis Ridout, co-director of the project.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jonathan D. Salant in Washington at jsalant@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net.

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