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Behind the meteoric rise in campaign spending

Billions of dollars were spent in campaign financing this year, and much more is predicted for 2012. Candidates already are scrambling for dollars, with particular focus on large donors.

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This was the first election in which the US Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” ruling had a major impact, striking down limits on corporation and labor union spending and leading the way for newly-created outside groups to donate huge sums without detailing their donors

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"[Citizens United] had a disastrous impact on the 2010 elections and this is just the beginning," campaign finance watchdog Fred Wertheimer, who heads the nonprofit, nonpartisan organization Democracy 21, told The Hill magazine. "You could easily have secret money doubled in 2012."

Given the new campaign finance landscape, both major political parties are angling for advantage in 2012. This is especially true of Republican presidential hopefuls.

“In recent months, many of the candidates-in-waiting have been actively cultivating the kinds of major donors needed to finance expensive presidential bids,” reports the New York Times. “[Mitt] Romney has been by far the most assertive, according to interviews with a half-dozen top Republican fund-raisers, already pushing for commitments from major donors should he formally decide to run.”

Democrats (and the Obama White House) are just as eager to take advantage here.

The White House is bracing for an onslaught of $500 million or more in spending by outside Republican groups opposed to President Barack Obama's 2012 reelection, prompting Obama advisers to give the green light to big Democratic donors to set up similar outside groups to counter the GOP’s effort,” according to Politico.com. “That posture marks a significant shift by a White House that had discouraged outside players in the political arena in 2008.”

Politico also reports that major liberal donors will meet in Washington this coming week to discuss fundraising strategies following the “shellacking” Democrats suffered in the midterm elections.

RELATED: Outside groups dominate 2010 campaign spending

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