Infographic: How the U.S. elections got so expensive

About US$5.8 billion will have been spent on this year's vote. Compare that with years past.

Last August, OdysseyRe, a wholly owned U.S. subsidiary of Canada’s Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd., donated US$1 million to a political action committee backing Mitt Romney. Such so-called super PACs, which are free to take in and spend all the U.S. money they want, have helped drive election spending in the U.S. to a record high. By Nov. 6, the Center for Responsive Politics estimates more than US$5.8 billion will have been spent on this year’s vote. The OdysseyRe donation caused controversy since foreign companies are banned from donating to U.S. political causes. (The rules aren’t as clear for subsidiaries.) Under Canadian law, the same donation, because of its size and its corporate origins, would have been doubly illegal. But even without outside money, U.S. presidential election spending has dwarfed Canadian spending by increasing margins over the past 12 years.