Fund Raising

What Campaign Spending? Americans spend more on Halloween than on midterms

File photos of Halloween trick-or-treating and an early voting polling site.

File photos of Halloween trick-or-treating and an early voting polling site.  (AP)

Campaign spending rose to nearly $4 billion this year, which is a new record for a midterm election. That is a lot – but not compared to what Americans spend on Halloween, according to an analysis from the Institute for Justice.

Americans’ Halloween spending on candy, costumes, and decorations is projected to hit $7.4 billion this year, or almost twice the campaign spending of all midterm races combined.

According to the National Retail Federation, that’s about $77 a person. That includes $2.8 billion on costumes (Americans actually spend more on adult costumes than kids’ costumes), $2.2 billion on candy; and almost as much on decorations that may or may not get taken down by Christmas.  

Here are some other activities America spends more on than politics:

• Laundry detergent ($5.9 billion)                                            

• Cosmetic surgery ($7 billion)

• Dolls and action figures ($4.1 billion)

• Pet grooming and boarding ($4.4 billion)

• Tea ($10 billion)

• One Zumwalt DDG-1000 Navy Destroyer ($7.3 billion)

• Surf- and skate- boards ($7.2 billion as of 2008)

• Pornography ($10-12 billion)

• Concerts ($4.3 billion)

Some argue the comparison illustrates why Americans should not worry so much about campaign spending.

“Some people try to scare us into thinking that campaign spending is a threat to the country. But when you realize that people spend more than that on trivial things like candy corn and fake vampire teeth, it puts political spending in perspective,” Institute for Justice senior attorney Paul Sherman told FoxNews.com. The institute is a libertarian-leaning nonprofit law firm.

He added that campaign spending can be good because ads inform voters.

“Spending this money is political speech – it is how voters get the information they need to make informed decisions,” he said.

But advocates of campaign finance reform say that is nonsense and campaign spending gives too much influence to the wealthy.

"It's a ridiculous comparison,” Nick Nyhart, president of Public Campaign, told FoxNews.com.

“The issue with our current system isn't simply about the amount of money … what's scary is that our elections are increasingly in the hands of an elite group of wealthy Democrats and wealthy Republicans, making it harder and harder for the voices of everyday people to be heard."

He added that the sweetheart deals the money buys are another problem.

"The special treats big donors can buy at taxpayers’ expense in our current system are way more consequential than the bags of Kit Kats and candy corn being handed out," he said.

Sherman counters that states that strictly limit campaign contributions have just as much corruption as states that don’t. And in the end, voters have the final say.

“Ultimately, the voter stands in between political spending and election outcomes. No matter how much a group spends, voters ultimately decide.”

The author, Maxim Lott, can reached at @maximlott or maxim.lott@foxnews.com