Spending on the New Hampshire Senate race cracked the $46 million mark this week to become the most expensive election campaign in Granite State history.
And to the surprise of no one, outside groups have far outspent the candidates: party organizations, political action committees, super PACS and other non-candidate groups have poured $28.7 million into the race, one of a handful of closely watched contests that will determine which party controls the U.S. Senate.
The campaigns of incumbent Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Republican nominee Scott Brown have combined to spend just over $18 million since January 1, according to the most recent reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.
Through October 15, Shaheen, whose campaign began the year with $3.4 million, had the spending advantage - $11.7 million versus $6.3 million by Brown, who didn’t officially enter the race until April.
The previous record for election spending in New Hampshire was the 2008 Senate race between Shaheen and Republican incumbent John E. Sununu. The two candidates combined to spend $17 million, with outside groups chipping in another $27.4 million. Shaheen won by 5 percentage points.
This year, much of the spending by outside groups, which are prohibited from coordinating their activities with the candidates, is in the form of so-called dark money.
With three days left before voters visit the polls, organizations that do not disclose their donors account for more than 40 percent of outside spending – some $11.7 million – through October 30, according to FEC filings. All but $1.6 million of has flowed from conservative groups that are backing Brown.
While spending on the Shaheen-Brown race is unprecedented by New Hampshire standards, it’s only the 8th most expensive Senate race in the country, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
The most expensive contest is in North Carolina, where more than $110 million has been spent, nearly three-quarters of it by outside groups, followed by Colorado with $95.5 million.