The money: In­de­pen­dent spend­ing tops $1 bil­lion.

The Washington Post Sunday - - FRONT PAGE - BY JOHN MUYSKENS, ANU NARAYANSWAMY, SHELLY TAN, MON­ICA ULMANU AND MICHELLE YE HEE LEE john.muyskens@wash­post.com anu.narayanswamy@wash­post.com shelly.tan@wash­post.com mon­ica.ulmanu@wash­post.com michelle.lee@wash­post.com

The 2018 elec­tions are on track to be the costli­est midterms in U.S. his­tory, with a record-shat­ter­ing amount of more than $1 bil­lion spent through Nov. 2 by groups seek­ing to in­flu­ence vot­ers in con­gres­sional races around the coun­try.

The money spent by out­side groups and party com­mit­tees on ads and voter con­tacts in­de­pen­dently of can­di­dates this cy­cle sig­nif­i­cantly ex­ceeds the $670 mil­lion spent by such en­ti­ties in the 2014 midterms, ac­cord­ing to a Wash­ing­ton Post anal­y­sis of fed­eral elec­tion records.

The vast ma­jor­ity of the money — 80 per­cent — has gone to ads op­pos­ing a can­di­date.

Some of the big­gest play­ers in in­de­pen­dent po­lit­i­cal spend­ing are su­per PACs, which are al­lowed to raise un­lim­ited sums from in­di­vid­u­als and cor­po­ra­tions. Their mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar cam­paigns in races across the coun­try high­light how these big-money groups, which burst onto the po­lit­i­cal scene eight years ago, have since ce­mented their roles as in­dis­pens­able al­lies of can­di­dates and par­ties.

On the Se­nate side, where Repub­li­cans have a bet­ter chance at re­tain­ing their ma­jor­ity in Tues­day’s elec­tions, to­tal in­de­pen­dent ex­pen­di­tures by su­per PACs and party com­mit­tees topped $506 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to data through Nov. 2.

The most ex­pen­sive con­test has been the Florida Se­nate race be­tween Demo­cratic in­cum­bent Bill Nel­son and Repub­li­can Gov. Rick Scott. Out­side groups and party com­mit­tees spent $44.3 mil­lion sup­port­ing Nel­son and $31.2 mil­lion back­ing Scott.

The race was made even more costly by the $69 mil­lion war chest amassed by Scott, a wealthy former health-care ex­ec­u­tive who largely self-funded his cam­paign.

An­other Se­nate con­test in­volv­ing big spend­ing is in Mis­souri, where Repub­li­can state At­tor­ney Gen­eral Josh Haw­ley is try­ing to un­seat Demo­cratic in­cum­bent Sen. Claire McCaskill in one of the most com­pet­i­tive races of the year. Haw­ley’s al­lies have spent $38 mil­lion, while McCaskill’s back­ers have spent $22 mil­lion.

On the House side, where Democrats are in a strong po­si­tion to re­take the ma­jor­ity and in­de­pen­dent spend­ing hit $532 mil­lion, the fight for con­trol of the cham­ber is play­ing across a broad map, with 29 con­tests rated by the non­par­ti­san po­lit­i­cal hand­i­cap­ping web­site Cook Po­lit­i­cal Re­port as “toss-up” races.

One of the most closely watched House con­tests is in Cal­i­for­nia’s 25th Con­gres­sional Dis­trict, be­tween Demo­crat Katie Hill and in­cum­bent Rep. Steve Knight (R), which has drawn $17.3 mil­lion so far in out­side spend­ing. Of that, $11.6 mil­lion was spent in fa­vor of Hill, a 31-year-old ex­ec­u­tive at a non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion, in­clud­ing a last-minute in­fu­sion from bil­lion­aire former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg’s su­per PAC.

An­other ex­pen­sive race has played out in Colorado’s 6th Con­gres­sional Dis­trict be­tween in­cum­bent Rep. Mike Coff­man (R) and Demo­crat Ja­son Crow. Out­side groups and party com­mit­tees spent $16 mil­lion on the race.

De­spite ini­tial big spend­ing by GOP groups for Coff­man, they pulled out of the race about two weeks be­fore Elec­tion Day — a sign that Coff­man’s chances of get­ting re­elected may be dwin­dling.

The two big­gest in­de­pen­dent spenders in Se­nate races were the main su­per PACs aligned with the par­ties, each funded by wealthy donors who have pumped in mil­lions.

The GOP Se­nate Lead­er­ship Fund has been buoyed by heavy­weight con­trib­u­tors such as casino mag­nate Shel­don Adelson and his physi­cian wife, Miriam, as well as Black­stone chief ex­ec­u­tive Stephen Sch­warz­man. The Adel­sons have given more than $112.2 mil­lion to su­per PACs since Jan­uary 2017, Fed­eral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion records show.

Se­nate Ma­jor­ity PAC, which is aligned with Se­nate Democrats, has col­lected large sums from hedge-fund man­ager S. Don­ald Suss­man and fi­nancier Ge­orge Soros, among oth­ers.

Former hedge-fund ex­ec­u­tive Tom Steyer has given more than $50.5 mil­lion to su­per PACs this cy­cle.

An­other ma­jor player was In­de­pen­dence USA, the su­per PAC started by Bloomberg, who re­cently aligned with the Democrats ahead of a po­ten­tial 2020 pres­i­den­tial run. The su­per PAC spent $37 mil­lion on House races to sup­port Demo­cratic can­di­dates.

On the Se­nate side, a big player was De­fend Ari­zona, a su­per PAC sup­port­ing Repub­li­can Se­nate can­di­date Martha McSally of Ari­zona, which spent $17.7 mil­lion.

For a full anal­y­sis of spend­ing, visit wapo.st/out­spent

Sources: Spend­ing data comes from the 24- and 48-hour re­ports filed with the Fed­eral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion be­tween Jan. 1, 2017, and Nov. 2, 2018. It in­cludes in­de­pen­dent ex­pen­di­tures made in sup­port or op­po­si­tion to a can­di­date in the gen­eral elec­tion. The data does not in­clude ex­pen­di­tures by can­di­dates. To de­ter­mine the vul­ner­a­bil­ity of a House seat, we used the Cook Po­lit­i­cal Re­port's race rat­ings. The Wash­ing­ton Post's own rat­ings were used for Se­nate seats. Rat­ings shown are as of Nov. 2.

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