Published: Oct 31, 2012 3:18 PM EDT
Updated: Nov 01, 2012 6:31 AM EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) - Billionaires and shadowy outside groups are funneling enormous amounts of money into this year's federal elections. And it's a trend that's likely to continue for some time to come.

The presidential election has surged past $2 billion. Outside super political committees are helping to boost the price tag because they can raise unlimited sums of money.

The relaxed campaign-finance system also means nonprofit groups have been spending millions more. Those groups have poured more than $100 million into the presidential race and don't have to disclose their donors.

Recent federal court rulings have relaxed old rules on how money is spent in politics. Critics say the system leads to corruption while proponents of deregulation say campaign contributions are free speech protected by the First Amendment.