(RNN) - Candidates on the ballot Tuesday may not have bought your vote outright, but they did contribute to what will likely be a record-breaking year in campaign spending.
If estimates are correct, campaign spending during the 2010 midterm elections could reach $4 billion, surpassing the previous record set in 2006 by a whopping $1 billion, according to a study by the Center for Responsible Politics.
University of California San Diego political science professor Dr. Gary C. Jacobson said we have the U.S. Supreme Court to thank for that.
The January ruling in Citizen United v. Federal Election Commission made it legal for corporations and labor unions to use funds from their companies' treasuries on political campaigns, he said.
It reversed campaign spending law that had been in place since 1907 and created an almost limitless supply of funds for campaigns.
"(The ruling) made it possible for CEOs to spend someone else's money," Jacobson said.
With all 435 House seats, 37 Senate seats and 37 governor races in play, there is plenty of mud to sling.
Most of the new money available to political campaigns has gone to influencing voters through television advertising, and those ads are particularly dirty this year.
Turn on any TV in America in the days before the election and you would see ads demonizing affiliations with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, ads depicting candidates mid-sentence, appearing disheveled, sporting a moronic expression or just simply looking old.
Almost $12 million has been spent on the heated contest for Kentucky's U.S. Senate seat alone, according to data published by the Center for Responsible Politics, a non-partisan group.
Republican Dr. Rand Paul and Democrat Jack Conway have at times wielded the TV as a weapon.
The race gained national exposure when a Paul supporter gave a liberal activist a concussion when he stomped her head and neck outside the Senate debate in Lexington, KY. The video of the incident took on a life of its own and spread through news networks and the internet almost immediately.
The Kentucky Democratic Party seized on the event and turned footage of the altercation into a TV advertisement with the slogan, "Rand Paul: Stomping on You. Stomping on Kentucky."
After the smoke clears, the winner may not be Republican or Democrat, rather the TV stations charging for advertising. "Advertising Age" magazine reported Friday that some local TV stations had run out of air time "inventory."
Louisville, KY station WAVE has felt the rush for political ad space from both national and local races. Demand for air time is definitely up over the 2006 midterm elections, said Doug Roberts, WAVE national sales manager.
"They exceeded our expectations," he said.