Rising costs A typical race for the United States Senate now costs $4 million. A senator must raise an average of $12,600 a week for the entire six years of his term to pay campaign expenses. The costliest contest ever was in North Carolina in 1984, when Sen. Jesse Helms (R) spent $16.5 million.
Federal law limits contributions to presidential and congressional campaigns. But corporations, unions, political action committees, and wealthy individuals get around those limits by channeling money through other recipients, such as state party organizations.
The Federal Election Commission is charged with enforcing campaign laws. But the commission is composed of three Republicans and three Democrats, and they often deadlock 3-3. The result: lawbreakers go unpunished.