What does a senator cost these days? Over $10M

Flickr user Sue Peacock

(MoneyWatch) Getting elected to Congress is a tough and expensive proposition. Really expensive. The average U.S. senator during the 2012 election cycle raised nearly $10.5 million, which works out to $14,351 per day. Representatives were lowballing by comparison: about $1.7 million each, on average, or $2,315 every day.

The figures come from MapLight, a non-profit that describes itself as a "non-partisan research organization that tracks money's influence on politics." The organization looked at Federal Election Commission records of donations from Jan. 1, 2011 through Dec. 31, 2012.

To put the numbers into context, under the current federal guidelines, the poverty level for a family of four is $23,550 of income per year, which is less than two days of fundraising for the average senator and slightly more than 10 days for a representative.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, real median household income in 2011, the latest figures available, was $50,054. Still, a senator raising funds would have secured more than that amount in well under a week; it would take a representative the better part of a month to do the same.

The was $1.1 billion by the end of the race.

In addition, third parties spent more than $1.3 billion in the most recent presidential and congressional races.

Image: Flickr user Sue Peacock

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    Erik Sherman is a widely published writer and editor who also does select ghosting and corporate work. The views expressed in this column belong to Sherman and do not represent the views of CBS Interactive. Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman or on Facebook.