To quote the great political philosopher Cyndi Lauper, “Money changes everything.” 1 And nowhere is that proverb more taken to heart than in a federal election, where billions of dollars are raised and spent on the understanding that money is a crucial determinant of whether or not a candidate will win. This year, the money has been coming in and out of political campaigns at a particularly furious pace. Collectively, U.S. House candidates raised more money by Aug. 27 than House candidates raised during the entire 2014 midterm election cycle, and Senate candidates weren’t far behind. Ad volumes are up 86 percent compared to that previous midterm. Dark money — flowing to political action committees from undisclosed donors — is up 26 percent.
Presumably, all that money is going to buy somebody an election. In reality, though, Lauper isn’t quite right. Political scientists say there’s not a simple one-to-one causality between fundraising and electoral success. Turns out, this market is woefully inefficient. If money is buying elections a lot of candidates are still wildly overpaying for races they were going to win anyway. And all of this has implications for what you (and those big dark money donors) should be doing with your political contributions.
How strong is the association between campaign spending and political success? For House seats, more than 90 percent of candidates who spend the most win. From 2000 through 2016, there was only one election cycle where that wasn’t true: 2010. “In that election, 86 percent of the top spenders won,” said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan research group that tracks campaign fundraising and spending.
Full Article: How Money Affects Elections | FiveThirtyEight.