The 2022 midterm elections were the most expensive midterms in history. As of December 2022, Senate candidates alone reported raising $1.69 billion collectively. For comparison, Senate candidates raised $1.3 billion for the 2018 midterms and $870 million for the 2014 midterms, adjusted to 2022 dollars.
Four races were the most expensive this election cycle: Senate seats in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Arizona. Herschel Walker and Raphael Warnock, the two Georgia Senate Candidates, reported raising $234 million collectively as of mid-November 2022. In Pennsylvania, John Fetterman and Mehmet Oz raised $129 million, the second-highest combined figure among Senate races. Together, the eight candidates raised $589 million, 35% of all Senate fundraising. While some additional fundraising from the Georgia runoff election is yet to be reported, this figure accounts for all the fundraising through the November election.
Data from the Federal Election Commission (FEC) shows that in these four races, the Democratic candidate consistently raised more money than the Republican candidate, with the widest gap in the Arizona race. Additionally, most of the money raised in all four races came from outside the state, meaning the primary donors to candidate committees would not be personally represented by the senators they donated to.
To run for office, candidates set up candidate committees that can raise and spend money on behalf of their campaigns. These committees raise money directly from individuals, party committees such as the Democratic National Committee, or political action committees (PACs). However, the FEC enforces donation limits. Individuals can’t contribute more than $2,900 to a candidate committee per election, while party committees and PACs can’t contribute more than $5,000.
Candidate committees do not account for all the money used to influence elections. Super PACs are not affiliated with specific candidates but are allowed to buy advertisements or fund efforts to elect candidates they support. Additionally, Super PACs do not face contribution limits, so individual donors can contribute hundreds of millions to them. In 2022, PACs raised nearly triple the $3.2 billion candidate committees raised.
Nonetheless, the candidate committees are the most direct funding campaigns can draw upon. Candidates spend money on advertising, fundraising campaigns, salaries and administrative tools, and other expenses.
Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock raised more money than any other candidate in the 2022 midterms, raising $176 million by December 2022. Mark Kelly, the incumbent Arizona Senator, and Val Demings, the Florida Senate challenger, raised the next most.
Democratic Senate candidates raised more money than Republican Senate candidates in 2022. The top five Senate fundraisers were all Democrats. Herschel Walker, challenging Warnock for the Georgia Senate seat, raised the sixth most out of all Senate candidates at $58.6 million.
While individual contributions are typically the largest source of funding, Mehmet Oz’s campaign in Pennsylvania was an outlier. He loaned his campaign around $27 million, 53% of the total his campaign raised. Of these four senate races, Blake Masters was the only other major candidate that spent his own money on his campaign, chipping in $822,135.
Individual contributions are itemized when they exceed $200, disclosing information about the location of the contributor. These disclosures show that less than half of the itemized money raised by any of these Senate campaigns came from within the state. Furthermore, the percentage of in-state contributions was lower in very high-fundraising campaigns.
In the Georgia Senate race, 9.6% of Warnock’s itemized campaign contributions came from Georgians, whereas 35% of Walker’s itemized campaign contributions came from inside the state. Although Warnock outraised Walker, their in-state contributions had a smaller gap—$8.8 million for Warnock versus $7.5 million for Walker.
In these four competitive races, Florida Senator Rubio had the highest share of individual contributions from within his state. However, his opponent, Val Demings, still outraised him in Florida ($10 million compared to his $9.8 million).
More populous states tend to be bigger donors to candidates: California, Florida, New York, and Texas were consistently big contributors to competitive races regardless of party or state. For all these eight Senate candidates, California was one of the top four states by donation amount. Texas and New York were also consistently big donors to these Senate races; Massachusetts was a big contributor to Democratic campaigns.
As elections continue to become more expensive, competitive candidates are increasingly turning to funding sources outside of their state.
Read more about the impact of political action committees on elections.
If campaigns have leftover money after election day, they can use the money to pay off leftover expenses, transfer the money to party committees or future campaign committees (such as if they run in future elections), donate money to charity, gift the money to anyone outside of immediate family, among other things.
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