Washington: US November mid-term elections are on track to be the costliest ever after controversial high court rulings opened the way for shadowy donors to flood key races with cash aimed at shaping the outcome.
"This will easily set spending records for US mid-term elections," according to Dave Levinthal, spokesman for the independent Center for Responsive Politics that tracks the influence of money in US politics.
The centre puts the price tag for this election cycle at about 3.4 billion dollars and rising, compared to 2.9 billion for the 2006 mid-terms, 2.2 billion for the 2006 mid-terms, and 1.6 billion for the mid-terms in 1998.
Analysts have given Republicans strong odds of gaining the 39 seats they need to retake the House of Representatives, and even a long shot at capturing the 10 seats they need to seize the Senate.
All 435 House of Representatives seats are up for grabs in the election, as are 37 of the 100 Senate seats and many key governorships.
The cash totals include all money spent by Senate and House candidates, political parties, and independent interest groups, which have proliferated this year after a pair of US Supreme Court rulings lifted campaign finance curbs.
It`s all private money. Public funding is only available to US presidential candidates, and only if they agree to overall spending limits, as well as to defray costs tied to the two major parties` nominating conventions.
US law sets some limits on how much an individual can give per election cycle: 2,400 dollars to a candidate, 30,400 dollars to a national party, and 5,000 to a nominally independent "political action committee" or PAC.