Presidential and congressional campaign spending, coupled with spending by political action committees and parties, totaled $1.3 billion in 2011, according to a report released by the Federal Election Commission.
Campaigns, PAC's and parties raised even more than they spent; the FEC reports that $1.9 billion was raised last year.
The largest sum raised and spent came from outside groups. PACs accounted for $601 million of the total $1.9 billion raised, and $499 million of the total $1.3 billion spent.
For comparison, independent expenditure-only committees-more commonly referred to as super PAC's, which have been so dominant in the political discourse this cycle-only account for a small portion of total raised and spent. The FEC report shows that these groups raised $99 million and spent $32 million. This number is likely to grow in next year's report, however, as a great deal of super PAC activity didn't kick into gear until after the primary season officially began in January, 2012.
In 2007 presidential candidates reported raising $581 million among the 20 candidates who have filed to run for president.
In 2011, the 13 presidential candidates who had filed with the FEC reported raising $280 million. Of course, in 2007 there were a greater number of candidates because both parties had open primaries.
In 2011 presidential candidates spent $179 million, while in 2007 they spent a total of $489 million.
Spending will undoubtedly increase greatly in 2012, the actual election year, but the sheer size of off-year spending and fundraising totals reminds voters just how much money goes into running for elected office.