While Politico dubbed 2008 “the costliest election in history,” 2012 is well on its way to having an even higher price tag. Super PACs and other outside sources have spent over $465 million this election season, according to the Sunlight Foundation, a number which has already surpassed that raised in the last election cycle. Comparably, outside contributions in 2008 amounted to $301.6 million and, in 2004, they were just over the $200 million mark.
So far in 2012, Super PACs aligned with the Democratic Party have spent $108.4 million this year, compared to the Republican-associated Super PACs’ $270.5 million. Total independent expenditures by other Super PACs were $15.6 million.
Here is a breakdown of the five Super PACs who have donated the most money so far in the 2012 campaign:
1. Restore Our Future, Inc.
Independent Expenditures - $84,557,135.85, Contributions – $96,667,002.38
Restore Our Future, Inc. was created by a group of former Romney staffers and supporters. It spent $4.1 million before the Iowa caucus on ads aimed largely at Gingrich, which prompted the former Speaker to accuse Romney of “buying the election.” Most of this Super Pac’s expenditures have gone to oppose President Obama, instead of supporting Romney.
2. Priorities USA Action
Independent Expenditures - $32,743,562.81, Contributions - $35, 636,122.36
This Super PAC is “committed to the reelection of President Obama.” Bill Burton, the political strategist for the group, formerly served as the president's deputy White House press secretary. All of the Super Pac’s expenditures were in opposition to Gov. Romney.
3. American Crossroads
Independent Expenditures - $28,361,788.79, Contributions - $56,764,412.30
The majority of this Super Pac’s expenditures were in opposition to President Obama, who it claims has fostered “permanent decline in America.”
4. Winning Our Future
Independent Expenditures - $17,003,038.79, Contributions - $23, 921,215.27
Winning Our Future was the leading Super PAC supporting Newt Gingrich. It spent most of its money in support of Gingrich in the 2012 primary and spent over $4 million opposing Gov. Romney.
5. Majority PAC
Independent Expenditures - $13,062,597.91, Contributions - $14,621,312.83
This Super PAC was founded by Democratic strategists determined to protect the Democratic majority in the Senate. It dedicated most of it funds to opposing Republican senators, including George Allen and Todd Akin, while supporting Democratic senators such as Claire McCaskill and Timothy Kaine.
As for overall campaign contributions, here’s a look at the candidates’ top supporters from the last two elections:
Obama in 2008:
University of California - $1,648,685
Goldman Sachs - $1,013,091
Harvard University - $878, 164 Microsoft Corp - $852,167
Google Inc - $814,540
Obama in 2012:
University of California - $703,781
Microsoft Corp - $544,445
Google Inc - $526,009
Harvard University - $431,860
US Government - $396,550
While these statistics show Obama has yet to amass the same amount of support he received from these groups four years ago, a look at the donations given to the Republican nominees from 2008 and 2012 indicate the Party is gaining ground in campaign fundraising.
McCain in 2008:
Merrill Lynch - $375, 895
JPMorgan Chase & Co - $375,895
Citigroup Inc. - $338,202
Morgan Stanley - $271,902
Goldman Sachs - $240,295
Romney in 2012:
Goldman Sachs - $688,080
Bank of America - $541,148
JPMorgan Chase & Co - $541,019
Morgan Stanley - $535,047
Credit Suisse Group - $433, 785
With six weeks still to go until the November election, these numbers will only continue to rise.