As if the significance of the upcoming midterm elections wasn’t already apparent, funding for the 2018 elections is closing in on USD$5.2 billion, making this the most expensive congressional vote in U.S. history.
That’s up 35 per cent from the 2014 cycle, according to data from the Centre of Responsive Politics.
“The significance of this election is clear. But whether it’s a blue wave or a red wave, one thing is certain: a wave of money is surging toward election day, much of it coming from the wealthiest donors targeting this year’s most competitive races,” said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, in a statement.
Both Republican and Democratic candidates are raising money at record rates, however, the huge uptick in funding levels is primarily being driven by the Democrats — Democratic House hopefuls raising USD$951 million to the Republicans’ USD$637 million.
“A lot of people are giving money to the Democrats. Their candidates have been raising a lot. The difference between the amounts the Democrats have been raising and the Republicans have been raising is probably bigger than it’s ever been,” said Canadian economist and UBC professor James Brander.
While a large portion of this funding has been driven by women, Brander notes that trade uncertainty may be driving big business to send its dollars elsewhere.
“The fact that Donald Trump has imposed tariffs and has created a lot of unhealthy rhetoric about international trade. That is something that the business community does not like,” he adds.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the usual mega-donors have shown up for their parties in this election — with Sheldon and Miriam Adelson shelling out USD$113 million in support of Republican candidates, while billionaire philanthropist Tom Steyer and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg combined have sent nearly USD$90 million the Democrats’ way.
However, Silicon Valley has come out to play in these midterms like never before, notes tech publication Recode, with low-key Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovits donating a total of USD$35 million to Democratic candidates over the past few months and LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman donating a combined USD$2 million to Democratic candidates and institutions.
Amazon’s Jeff Bezos contributed more than USD$10 million to non-partisan organizations which largely split their money evenly between Republicans and Democrats. Netflix’s Reed Hastings, however, donated over USD$500,000 to the Democratic Party, according to GoBankingRates.
“Normally Republicans out-raise Democrats. This election, the Democrats have been raising a lot of money and a lot of it has to do with Trump’s anti-trade position,” says Brander. “The trade policy plays an important role in that. The business community is at best, very ambivalent about the Trump administration. There is a lot of support within that community for Democrats this election cycle.”
According to Brander, this has come as a surprise, as the Republican Party has traditionally received more support from the business community. With the influence of major, multinational, tech companies which rely on the global marketplace, this could change.
“The business community on average has been disappointed with Trump. Yes, I think it is surprising that Trump has gone as vigorously as he has on international trade issues. I think that was a negative surprise for the business community. As a result, I think we are seeing a surprising amount of support for Democrats from the business community,” he said.
From a funding perspective, Democrats are either beating or keeping pace with Republicans in every race. While these figures indicate the energy behind the Democratic movement this time around, it remains to be seen whether dollars can be transferred into votes, the Center of Responsive Politics notes.
“Whether that money will translate into success on November 6, is an open question, given that money — while essential — is by no means the only factor governing electoral outcomes,” Bryner said in a statement.