How costly is NC's US Senate campaign?

Posted November 3, 2014


— So, how much money has washed through North Carolina as part of the U.S. Senate campaign?

WRAL News has been tracking the broadcast television commercials aired on behalf of Democratic Sen.  Kay Hagan and Republican state House Speaker Thom Tillis. While it's reasonable to assume that those campaign ads will account for somewhere between two-thirds and three-quarters of the total campaign spending in the state, there's more money being spent on get-out-the-vote operations, direct mail, polls and campaign staff. 

The Center for Responsive Politics keeps a running tally of all spending reported to the Federal Elections Commission. As of Monday, the CRP has documented $111 million in spending on the race, nearly $30 million from the candidates themselves. The rest came from outside groups – nonprofits, political groups and others that have had to report their spending. 

That $111 million is a floor, not a ceiling. The candidates have yet to report some of their spending, and some spending by outside nonprofit groups falls outside of reporting requirements. So, the total spending on the race is almost certainly millions of dollars more than what the CRP can document. 

So, what does that $111 million in spending mean? 

The Institute for Southern Studies took one crack at this question by asking what the cost per voter might be. 

Given $111 million in spending and 6.6 million registered voters in North Carolina, the cost per vote winds up around $16.76 per registered voter. Now, all 6.6 million registered voters won't show up to the polls, so the cost per vote cast will likely be double that figure. 

As the ISS observed, North Carolina's $111 million U.S. Senate campaign is the costliest in the nation but maybe not the most costly per voter. 

By using CRP data on spending in the 12 most competitive campaigns as rated by The Cook Political Report and voter registration figures from each state, we can get a rough cost per registered voter for each state. 

Alaska, a state with a relatively small population where it is costly to campaign, has the most eye-popping per-voter figure: $112.76. Much like the state itself, that number is something of an outlier. 

New Hampshire is next on the list, with candidates and their allies spending roughly $57.80 per registered Granite State voter. That's likely because much of the state falls into the expensive Boston media market. 

In fact, among these 12 hotly-contested Senate races, North Carolina ranks ninth in terms of per-person spending.

U.S. Senate campaign spending

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Sources: Campaign spending data from the Center for Responsive Politics. Combined spending includes both money spent by candidates as well as money spent by outside interest groups. Number of registered voters supplied by secretaries of state or boards of elections for each state.


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  • Raleigh Rocks 1 Nov 5, 2014

    View quoted thread

    Wrong, Tillis said he would not be a rubber stamp for Obama. I think his ad showing the liar Hagan saying in 2008 that she said a senator who votes with the president all the time is not good for NC, yet she was elected and thats exactly what she did

  • disgusted2010 Nov 4, 2014

    What truly amazes me is that in over 100 million dollars spent, the majority on ads, there has not been one word about what either has done or will do if elected. Its only "vote for me because I'm not him/her." Sounds like two children on the elementary school playground. NEITHER is worthy of the seat.

  • shallottemustang Nov 4, 2014

    So your saying Hagan spent over $22M, almost 3 times the other candidates and her adds are complaining about outside influences and money being dumped in her competitors campaign...really?

  • Raleigh Rocks 1 Nov 4, 2014

    and greedy corporations like Capital Broadcasting reap all the benefits!

    Liberals would say this, but not me.

  • Forthe Newssite Nov 4, 2014
    user avatar

    ALL that money. so much more beneficial things could have been done instead of spewing hatred and lies

  • theliberadicator Nov 4, 2014

    "By gerrymandering districts, anyone can cheat themselves into power"

    Just ask the Dems.

  • ksmith47406 Nov 4, 2014

    "Michigain" gained a letter.

  • 426X3 Nov 4, 2014

    This is so wrong. What a waste.

  • FE Nov 4, 2014

    View quoted thread

    I'm not "conveniently" leaving out anything. . .I just quoted the numbers ("Funds raised - Reported through November 2, 2014") from The Washington Post article of Monday.
    My bad.

  • miseem Nov 4, 2014

    View quoted thread

    You are conveniently leaving out the elephant in the vault. Based on this article, there is at least an additional $81 million you are not accounting for. And a lot of this is through dark money with undisclosed donors. And while this is a little hard to precisely track since these PACs are not supposed to coordinate with a candidate (sure), Tillis has had as much, probably more total funding in this race. And the dark money, being unaccountable to the public, brings in even more questions about who is pulling the strings of the elected official. But according to the conservative block of the US Supreme Court, we should not concern ourselves with that.