Election 2022

Pa.’s Senate race was the most expensive in history. What else could you get for $375 million?

And did the money go to anything besides the annoying TV ads?

skyline-money-crop
Billy Penn illustration
jordanlevy-headshot

With national attention focused on the battle, Pennsylvania’s race for U.S. Senate was the most expensive in the country this year.

Candidate campaigns spent upwards of $133 million, and outside political organizations spent another $241 million, according to OpenSecrets.

Including the primary, the battle to become the junior senator from Pa. cost about $374.3 million. That makes the contest the second most expensive Senate campaign in U.S. history, after 2020’s twinned races in Georgia.

It’s a trend. More cash flowed into this year’s midterm elections than ever before, per analysts at the Brennan Center.

The mind-boggling totals make one wonder: Is this really the best use of Americans’ money? What else could you get for the cost of Pennsylvania’s Senate race? And what industries profited from the big bucks this time around?

Read on for some salient answers.


๐Ÿ’Œ Love Philly? Sign up for the free Billy Penn newsletter to get everything you need to know about Philadelphia, every day.


Statewide housing repairs and construction

In August, Governor Tom Wolf signed a Pennsylvania budget that added $375 million for housing priorities across the state. The total, made possible by federal COVID funds, cost about $600,000 more than the Fetterman/Oz slugfest.

“Our investment included $125 million for the Whole Home Repair Program, $150 million to help offset higher development costs due to the pandemic. And $100 million for affordable housing construction,” Wolf told reporters at the time.

A Bryce Harper-caliber player

When signed in March 2019, Bryce Harper’s 13-year, $330 million contract was the most expensive in baseball history … for a few weeks.

The Los Angeles Angels extended star outfielder Mike Trout’s contract — 12 years, $426.5 million — later that same month, which has remained the most expensive MLB contract.

Now the fifth most expensive baseball deal of all time, Phillies fans no doubt believe that Harper is worth every cent.

City worker overtime (and then some)

Forget baseball, Philly is also breaking records! Municipal records for overtime spending, that is.

The city spent more than $213 million on overtime in fiscal year 2021, the most ever, according to the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority.

An April PICA report noted that “In 2021, out of approximately 26,733 employees, 2,933 separated from the City, representing 11.0 percent of the workforce, an increase from the pre-pandemic (2017-2019) average of 6.4 percent.”

That compounded preexisting vacancy issues, even as over 25,000 people work for the City of Philadelphia, according to the Office of Human Resources.

One way to curb this spending, critics say, would be to change residency requirements for city jobs, legislation for which was recently proposed by Councilmember Helen Gym. Council President Clarke is a strong proponent of those requirements, even as many councilmembers think nixing them would be a good idea.

15 forehead diamonds

Remember when Philly rapper Lil Uzi Vert bought a pink diamond and had it surgically implanted on their forehead, only to have it nearly ripped clean off their face after stage diving at hip-hop festival Rolling Loud, leading to a surgical removal? Yeah, us too.

The money spent in this year’s Senate race could’ve bought 15 of those bad boys from Eliantte and Co, which would make for the strangest face to ever come from Francisville.

A Center City skyscraper

Independence Blue Cross spent $360 million two years ago to acquire the 45-story, 800,000-square-foot tower that has been their headquarters since 1989.

Located at 1901 Market St., the skyscraper is the eighth tallest office building in the city, per REBusiness.

So where *did* the money go?

Here’s a look at the biggest buckets for the nearly $375 million spent on the Senate race.

Here’s how Fetterman and Oz (roughly) spent their funds, per FEC filings.

The Fetterman campaign

  • TV ads: $18,363,785
  • Consultants and polling: $1,069,748
  • Campaign staff: $4,674,440
  • Printed materials and ads: $12,543,142

The Oz campaign

  • Media production (i.e. ads): $24,495,226
  • Consultants and polling: $4,419,286
  • Campaign staff: $1,291,685.03
  • Printed materials: $700,014

Outside spending was just as extravagant

  • $33,329,472 was spent by independent organizations to oppose Fetterman, while $11,604,036 was spent to support the senator-elect.
  • $36,485,258 was spent by independent organizations to oppose Oz, while $6,072,821 was spent to support him.

Want some more? Explore other Election 2022 stories.

Mornings are for coffee and local news

Billy Pennโ€™s free morning newsletter gives you a daily roundup of the top Philly stories you need to start your day.

You finished another Billy Penn article โ€” keep it up!

We hope you found it useful, fun, or maybe even both. If you want more stories like this, will you join us as a member today?

Nice to see you (instead of a paywall)

Billy Pennโ€™s mission is to provide free, quality information to Philadelphians through our articles and daily newsletter. If you believe local journalism is key to a healthy community, join us!

Your donation brought this story to life

Billy Penn only exists because of supporters like you. If you find our work valuable, consider making a sustaining donation today.

Being informed looks good on you

Thanks for reading another article, made possible by members like you. Want to share BP with a friend?