Green Wave: Billions Spent on 2018 Elections


It was less a wave and more of a tsunami.  Not the results of the 2018 elections, but the amount of money spent on them.  The Center for Responsive Politics estimates $5.2 billion was spent on races nationwide, which would be a record for any election, especially a midterm.  A large chunk of that was spent here in Texas, where the Ted Cruz-Beto O'Rourke Senate race captured the attention of donors from across the country.  More than $100 million was raised on that race alone, with much of it coming from out of state.  In particular, O'Rourke raked in massive cash from California.  As political analyst Chris Begala told KTRH last month, "(Beto) has spent more time out in Hollywood I think almost than he has campaigning in Texas."

All of that out-of-state money flowing in may seem unseemly or unfair, but it is not illegal.  "Individuals can give, at the federal and state level, up to a maximum amount to as many candidates as they want, and that ends up totaling millions of dollars," says Edwin Bender, executive director of FollowTheMoney.org.

Bender tells KTRH that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled campaign contributions are protected free speech under the First Amendment, regardless of where you live or what state the race is in. Nevertheless, some states are trying to at least limit the amount of outside money coming in.  "There is a case now in front of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, from the state of Alaska, that had a cap on how much a candidate could receive from out of state donors," says Bender.  "Frankly, I don't think the Alaska case will have a huge impact…and there have been other places that tried to really focus giving within a district, so a candidate can only take contributions from within their district, but I don't think that can pass."

The bottom line: since the courts have held that money equals speech, states are very restricted in limiting where it comes from.  And that means the green will keep flowing.  Expect another spending record to be set in the 2020 elections.


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