The Incredible Rise in Campaign Spending

TIME

[time-interactive id=campaign_inflation_charts]

The NBC affiliate in Des Moines, Iowa, added an hour to its nightly newscast this year to profit from all the political ads ahead of the Nov. 4 midterm elections, but demand was still too great. “There is only so much inventory I have,” explains WHO-TV station manager Dale Woods. It is the same in tight races all across the country. Nearly bottomless campaign and super-PAC bank accounts have been unloaded on airtime, mailings and get-out-the-vote efforts. And in recent years, the spending growth has accelerated.

Since the mid-1980s, the amount dumped on elections by campaigns and outside groups, as measured by the Federal Election Commission, has grown faster than even the alarming increases in the costs of health care and private college tuition. The reasons, say political scientists, include growth in the national economy, the razor-thin margin determining congressional control and changes to campaign-finance rules. Expect the…

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