Independent expenditures for and against political candidates last year totaled $16 million, eight times as much as in 1976, according to the Federal Election Commission. Independent expenditures are not direct contributions to a candidate or his campaign and groups and individuals making them are not subject to the limitations federal law puts on direct contributions.

Of that total, $13.7 million was spent on the primary and general presidential campaigns in both parties, with about $12.3 million of that spent on behalf of Ronald Reagan. John Anderson was a distant second with about $200,000 spent on his behalf followed by Ted Kennedy with $77,000 and Jimmy Carter with $46,000.

Kennedy was the leader in terms of money spent to defeat him, with $491,000 followed by Sen. Frank Church (D-Idaho) with $339,000.

Most of the spending, $14.8 million, was by 105 political action committees and 80 other organizations. The leading individual spender wass Houston businessman Cecil R. Haden, who laid out $599,333, of which $413,221 was for Reagan; $182,726 for John Connally's presidential campaign, and the rest to other candidates. Second was Stewart Mott, the General Motors heir and long-time contributor to liberal Democrats who spent $110,179 of his own money, followed by television producer Norman Lear who spent $108,301.