Snapshot of an election


This article is a sidebar that accompanies the news story, Western elections wrap-up

Alarm bells rang early this year when the Supreme Court lifted key restrictions on corporate political spending. The decision gave corporations and unions the right to spend unlimited amounts to explicitly campaign for or against candidates, and allowed independent interest groups to accept limitless donations from undisclosed sources. The ruling was expected to transform the way elections were funded, elevating the influence of big business and setting off a flood of new spending.

At nearly $4 billion, the tab for the 2010 midterms was indeed a whopper -- about 40 percent higher than it was four years ago. Outside of official campaigns, interest groups shelled out almost $300 million to run ads, canvass and otherwise influence the electorate, compared to about $58 million in 2006, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. (And that doesn't count spending by party committees.) Colorado's Senate race attracted more outside money than any other federal contest, and Washington, Nevada and California's Senate races were all in the top 10.

But money isn't everything. As the balance sheets from some particularly contentious Western races show, lavish spending -- by candidates or outside groups -- can't always buy victory.

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