By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 27, 2010; 4:01 PM
The big midterm numbers just keep piling up.
In the latest sign of this year's record-breaking spending, an independent research group estimated Wednesday that candidates, parties and outside interest groups together may spend up to $4 billion on the 2010 campaign.
The prediction by the Center for Responsive Politics is the latest evidence of a spending tsunami for 2010, despite its status as an off-election year without a race for the White House. Expenditures have already eclipsed what they were when George W. Bush won the presidency in 2000.
The current contest makes 2000 "look like a bargain," said Sheila Krumholz, CRP's executive director.
There are three general tides of money swamping this year's elections, according to CRP's data: House and Senate candidates themselves, who so far have reported raising $1.7 billion; the political parties, at about $1.1 billion; and outside interest groups, who have raised at least $400 million.
That adds up to $3.2 billion so far, but the numbers are incomplete amid the final frenzy of ad buys and other spending in the week before the election. The Democratic Congressional Committee announced a $22 million ad buy on Tuesday in 66 districts. Candidate campaigns are also on pace to eclipse $2 billion all by themselves, data show.
Other patterns are also clear: Donations from Wall Street, medical and insurance firms, energy conglomerates and other corporations have shifted decisively toward Republicans over the past year in the wake of congressional battles over health-care reform, financial regulations and other issues.
The research group's data also bolsters another long-running theme of the election: GOP-leaning interest groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and American Crossroads have proved crucial in allowing Republicans to surge ahead of Democrats in overall money, although not by much.
The two sides have each raised about $1.4 billion between candidates and parties, but conservative groups have spent $2 on advertisements and other communications for every $1 on the liberal side. (Other data show that Democratic allies have been catching up in recent weeks, however.)
In the end, CRP predicts that the federal election contest this cycle will cost at least $3.7 billion, with a strong possibility of eclipsing $4 billion once all the spending is tallied.