A new estimate from the Federal Election Commission puts total spending for the 2012 election at more than $7 billion — $1 billion more than previously thought. New FEC Chair Ellen Weintraub unveiled the latest estimate of the 2012 campaign’s record-shattering cost at the agency’s first open meeting of 2013, one that saw the departure of Cynthia Bauerly, one of the three Democratic commissioners. Though campaign spending was expected to break records after the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision that opened the door for unlimited contributions, the latest FEC estimate exceeds earlier expectations. The FEC processed more than 11 million documents to calculate the spending for the election and the counting isn’t yet complete: New filings covering the final quarter of 2012 are due at midnight.
But Weintraub projects that the final tab will include: $3.2 billion in spending by candidate committees, $2 billion from party committees and another $2 billion or more from outside groups. The new FEC chair, a Democrat, drew attention to the “unusual situation we find ourselves in,” noting that some races drew more spending from outside groups than from the candidates themselves. She also pointed out that despite the Citizens United ruling, traditional PACs still outspent super PACs.
Weintraub also pointed to the enforcement and rulemaking items leftover from a busy election year. “We’ve got a lot to do,” she said, and the sentiment was echoed by Vice Chairman Donald McGahn, a Republican who chaired the FEC in 2008.