In early 2022, pundits predicted a Republican “red wave” during the midterm elections, FTX CEO and recent mega-donor Sam Bankman-Fried was a darling on Capitol Hill, Russia was ramping up its influence in the United States and the federal government. Abortion rights were still protected under Roe v. Wade.
But as 2022 drew to a close, the red tide turned into a red ripple despite massive spending by federal Republican candidates and aligned outside groups. Federal prosecutors charged Bankman-Fried with multiple counts of fraud and campaign finance violations. K Street businesses cut ties with Russia after it invaded Ukraine. And the US Supreme Court struck down the federal right to abortion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
Through it all, OpenSecrets followed the money shaping US policy and politics. Here’s a look at some of our top stories.
The most expensive midterm ever
Midterm elections drove the news in 2022, and OpenSecrets projected the total cost of state and federal midterm elections to exceed $16.7 billion during the 2022 election cycle.
Statewide candidates, party committees and ballot measures committees are expected to raise $7.8 billion over the two-year cycle. Groups that spent to influence state ballot measures across the country raised more than $945 million before Election Day on California’s two most expensive ballot measures.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), a rumored 2024 GOP presidential contender, faced former Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist in the state’s general election race for governor. The incumbent governor eventually broke the national gubernatorial fundraising record before winning re-election, amassing $214.9 million between his campaign and statewide PAC.
Federal candidates and political committees are expected to spend $8.9 billion, surpassing the inflation-adjusted 2018 midterm record of $7.1 billion.
OpenSecrets continued to cover the hottest and most expensive races, diving into outside spending going into Pennsylvania’s contentious U.S. Senate race and third-party brokers selling personal data to federal campaigns, just to name a few— not some
No federal race in the 2022 election cycle saw more money than the U.S. Senate race in Georgia, where spending by general election candidates and outside groups soared to $402.7 million. Incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) won the money race and ultimately won re-election after a close runoff.
“Dark money” groups that do not disclose expenditures to the Federal Election Commission spent even more.
Dark money played a major role in the 2022 federal election, although little of that spending was disclosed to the FEC. Instead, these secretly funded groups, including dark money groups aligned with Senate and House leadership, directed hundreds of millions of dollars to super PACs and spent on ads that boost or attack candidates without explicitly asking for the his election or defeat.
Dark money groups connected to former President Donald Trump’s administration officials funded provocative ads ahead of the 2022 midterms, including divisive ads that sought to pit non-white communities against each other.
OpenSecrets also investigated “pop-up” super PACs in Arizona, Missouri, Tennessee and New Hampshire that spent millions of dollars on elections but only disclosed their donors, which were in some cases dark money groups, after for voters to go to the polls. .
New Hampshire also had one of the first Generation Z Americans to run for federal office. Karoline Leavitt, a former deputy press secretary during the Trump administration, won her primary despite heavy outside spending by House GOP leadership that boosted her moderate opponent. Although the leadership swung to support Leavitt in the general election, he lost to incumbent Rep. Chris Pappas (D–NH).
But Gen Z is still heading to Congress, as Florida’s 10th Congressional District elected Maxwell Frost. The 25-year-old Democrat and former March for our Lives national organizing director was supported and funded by progressive groups and members of Congress.
Election naysayers raised record funds, but were largely unsuccessful
Candidates embracing conspiracy theories, including that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump, and opposition to those candidates fueled fundraising in races across the country.
Groups aligned with the Democratic Party spent more than $44 million on campaign ads in at least five state Republican primaries to raise the profile of far-right candidates. While Democrats failed to get the far-right candidate to be the GOP nominee in every race, the races in which candidates who expressed support for Trump’s stolen election lies and other conspiracy theories came to the general election, they largely resulted in Democratic elections.
US Secretary of State candidates reported raising a collective $72 million during the 2022 election cycle, a record when adjusted for inflation, according to data from OpenSecrets.
The America First Secretary of State Coalition, a coalition of Republican candidates promoting debunked claims that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump, launched to help elect candidates who deny the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election and they would be in a position to influence the outcome of future elections. , including the 2024 presidential race.
Ron Watkins, a central figure in the QAnon conspiracy movement who ran for Congress in Arizona as a Republican, reported making a $95,000 loan to his campaign. His bid for Congress was ultimately unsuccessful.
Reverberations from the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol continued to make headlines in 2022 as well.
As the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 attack on the US Capitol and the Department of Justice investigated the events surrounding the insurgency, OpenSecrets followed the money.
Trump’s political operation continued to pay individuals and companies involved in organizing the rally that preceded the deadly attack on the Capitol.
OpenSecrets continued to unearth payments from the Trump political operation to Jan. 6 organizers, expose money from Republican candidates who participated in the Jan. 6 rally, and track corporate PAC contributions to election campaigners.
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) emerged as a leader in the House investigation into the Capitol attack and became the target of many in her own Republican Party. Although his fundraising continued to grow, largely from out-of-state donors, Cheney ultimately lost the Wyoming GOP primary to Trump-endorsed Republican challenger Harriet Hageman.
Cheney’s campaign operation has since become a PAC, and he acknowledged that he is considering mounting a presidential campaign, but not the only one.
The rumored 2024 presidential hopefuls have raised more than $591 million since January 2021 through their aligned political operations, which include super PACs, leadership PACs and re-election campaigns in congress
Trump was the first candidate to announce his presidential bid in 2024. Although his political operation raised $117.6 million through Oct. 19, that money is out of reach as the former president will only be able to access about $13.5 million available to his joint fundraising committees.
Unprecedented Federal Lobbying Spending
The year began with an unprecedented $1 billion in first-quarter federal lobbying spending, driven by billionaire aerospace companies, tax preparation service providers, multinational technology companies, the marijuana industry and defense contractors .
Federal lobbying topped $3 billion in the third quarter for the first time. Although a bipartisan proposal to ban corporate PACs gained momentum, the legislation ultimately failed to pass in 2022.
Deadly shootings across the country continued to fuel the gun-related debate. Anti-gun groups continued to outspend gun control groups on lobbying and also put more money into political contributions.
As debates over gun control legislation raged, the Supreme Court made the historic decision to overturn Roe v. Abortion rights group Planned Parenthood saw a massive influx of federal contributions and spent an unprecedented amount on lobbying in the second quarter of the year, around the time of the Supreme Court decision.
Registered lobbyists for foreign governments and entities also raised hundreds of millions of dollars to exert influence in Washington, D.C.
After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, OpenSecrets covered the money surrounding the conflict. OpenSecrets has covered Russia pouring millions into political influence and lobbying, lobbyists cutting ties with companies associated with Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline, and the influence of Russian oligarchs in the US
Qatar flexed its extensive lobbying and influence operation in the United States as it prepared to host the 2022 World Cup, overshadowing human rights concerns. An OpenSecrets analysis found that US arms sales to the Gulf state soared after FIFA awarded it the 2022 World Cup in 2010.
Sports diplomacy also played an important role in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. OpenSecrets revealed that the Chinese government hired a company to recruit social media influencers as part of digital operations amid controversies in around diplomatic boycotts of the event and covered its corporate sponsors.
Kelly Kauffman, director of digital media and outreach, contributed to this report.