The Washington Post

Why ‘Mr. Smith’ can’t make it to Washington — in 1 chart

How much does a Senate seat cost these days? More than $10 million.

He wouldn't be elected nowadays.

That's the finding of a new study conducted by, a campaign finance watchdog group, which found that the 33 people who won their Senate races in 2012 raised an average of $10,476,451.

The least-expensive Senate seat, in fact, still cost nearly $3 million. That was the seat won by newly minted Sen. Angus King (I-Maine).


The House is a bargain, by comparison, with the average seat costing a measly $1,689,580. The new members who raised the least for their campaigns were Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Tex.), who pulled in $372,000, and Rep. Gloria Negrete McLeod (D-Calif.), who raised just $353,000.

(McLeod, we should note, had more than $3 million in advertising support from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's super PAC.)

Breaking it down by day, MapLight figured that the average senator needs to raise more than $14,000 per day, while House members need to raise more than $2,300 per day.

Talk to any new member of Congress, and you will hear nightmare stories about the dozens of hours per week spent dialing for dollars. The ability to do so successfully is one of the major differences between political wannabes and members of Congress -- if not the major difference.

(Update 2:14 p.m.: Some helpful readers have pointed out that the character of Mr. Smith -- a.k.a. Jefferson Smith, played by Jimmy Stewart -- was appointed to the Senate. While it's important to note this, we believe that the point stands. Mr. Smith is a metaphor for the average American trying to have a voice in Congress.)

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.



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