One way the 2012 election could go down in the record books is in bucking the notion that the results always follow the money, and in disproving outsized fears that corporations could buy the election outright.
The Center for Responsive Politics says this election - including presidential, house and senate campaigns - cost about $6 billion. It should shatter the previous record by $700 million. Most of that additional money started to flow in wake of the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The court said corporations could spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections for or against candidates.
Actually, the Obama and Romney campaigns spent about the same amounts through Oct. 17, according to the most recent filings. The full reports won't come until later this year. Obama spent a little under $1 billion. Romney spent a little more.
But that's just their own campaigns. The big money was spent outside the campaigns by various groups, in particular the so-called Super PACs that flourished in wake of the Citizens decision.
Super PACs are not traditional PACs, or political action committees and can't contribute directly to an individual campaign or a party. But, they can raise money from anywhere - individuals, corporations, uniors and other groups - and spend it advocating for or against candidates.
And, as Democrats feared, the big money flowed to conservative Super PACs. The most recent election finance records show that conservative so-called Super PACs raised more than twice as much money as Democratic-leaning ones.
OpenSecrets.org reports that Super PACs brought in $661 million dollars this election cycle. Of that, about $417 million went to conservative advocacy groups. About $207 million went to liberal advocacy groups. Much of the money went into slick media ads for GOP candidate Mitt Romney or President Obama. Or, it was used against them.
Mostly, it was used against Obama. Seven of the top 10 individual donors to those outside groups were aligned with conservatives. Gaming magnates Sheldon and Miriam Adelson spent $53 million alone in the 2012 election cycle.
More than 80 percent of the money spent by the top 10 donors went to conservative causes. That translated to about $124 million dollars.
Super PAC money failed to pan out in some high-profile races. In Illinois, a mysterious Super PAC known as FreedomWorks' super PAC spent $1.7 million to oppose Tammy Duckworth, a Democrat running for Congress in a bitter campaign with Tea Party favorite Joe Walsh, according to research by the Center for Public Integrity and the Center for Responsive Politics. Duckworth won.
Separately, in Connecticut, big money also lost. In one of the most expensive U.S. Senate races, Republican Linda McMahon reached deep mostly into her own bank account to spend $36 million on her campaign. That's compared to $8.6 million spent by Democrat Chris Murphy, who won.
True, big money and contributions from Super PACs did influence wins in other races for both Republicans and Democrats. It just didn't win the biggest race of all.