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Election 2010: Most expensive elections ever?

House and Senate candidates in this election cycle raised nearly $1.2 billion, ahead of the pace for contests in 2008. Republican Meg Whitman is pumping $104 million of her own money into her campaign for California governor.

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Among the most prominent is American Crossroads and its allied groups. It was created under the direction of former Bush political strategist Karl Rove and former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie. The operation is run out of offices two blocks from the White House.
"We wanted to create a group that was monolithically focused on helping get Republicans elected," said Steve Law, the president and CEO of American Crossroads and a former U.S. Chamber of Commerce lawyer.

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Politicians often point to their small-dollar donations as evidence of broad appeal. But American Crossroads and its affiliates are relying on large corporate and individual donors, the fastest and most efficient way to build their budgets. Law said he has seen some increase in small-dollar giving to his groups, but added, "We haven't spent a lot of time cultivating that."

While American Crossroads and groups like it represent the mainstream of the Republican Party, the Tea Party Express is the party's occasional ally but more regularly a thorn in its side. Its Our Country Deserves Better PAC spent nearly $600,000 to help Republican Joe Miller defeat Sen. Lisa Murkowski in the Alaska primary. Murkowski had the GOP's backing.

The PAC also helped tea party favorites Sharron Angle in Nevada over GOP establishment-supported Senate candidates and is now backing conservative Christine O'Donnell in a Senate primary in Delaware over party-backed Rep. Mike Castle.

The Parties

The Democratic National Committee and its Senate and House party affiliates have the advantage over their GOP counterparts in fundraising and cash on hand. That puts an additional burden on outside Republican groups such as American Crossroads.

Republicans can also look to another quarter for help. The Republican Governors Association, which can raise unlimited sums from corporations, has outraised its Democratic rival and is prepared to spend $65 million by Election Day, compared with $50 million for the Democrats.

While the governors' group cannot use the money to help federal candidates, its get-out-the-vote efforts will inevitably help all Republicans on the ballot. With the mood running against Democrats, that can't hurt.