ATTEMPTS by 'Yes' and 'No' campaigners to influence the Lisbon Treaty referendum outcome will cost both sides up to €3.5m by the time the votes are counted on June 13.
And, possibly for the first time, each camp will have almost as much money as the other, the Irish Independent has learned.
Traditional 'No' advocates will be dwarfed by the massive sums the Libertas group is planning to pour into the campaign. So far, Libertas has spent €300,000. They say a final bill of €1.5m would not be wide of the mark. The group says it will only disclose where its funding comes from if Fianna Fail and Fine Gael do the same.
On the 'Yes' side, the big beasts are, unsurprisingly, Fianna Fail, who are providing Taoiseach Brian Cowen with €700,000 to pass his first big electoral test. Fine Gael are providing €500,000 with Labour chipping in €200,000.
The Progressive Democrats intend to spend €50,000, and are kicking their campaign off this morning.
"We'll be spending it on posters, leaflets, and transport," PD leader Ciaran Cannon said.
"We'll be using the campaign as an opportunity to get our local election candidates for next year out to meet people."
MEPs can also avail of funds from their groups in the European Parliament.
Proinsias de Rossa will get €50,000 from the Socialists, Fine Gael will receive funds from the EPP group and Independent North West MEP Marian Harkin will receive €25,000 from the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats grouping to campaign for a 'Yes' vote.
"Most of it will go on public meetings in the smaller towns in my constituency, but I won't be spending any on posters," she said.
Fianna Fail will receive no funds from their Union of Europe for the Nations group.
The non-party Irish Alliance for Europe is spending €100,000 and IBEC has an allocated budget of €250,000.
On the 'No' side, Sinn Fein has a war chest of €100,000 -- €20,000 of which is coming from Mary Lou McDonald's European Parliament group.
The Coir group, formerly 'No to Nice', hopes to raise up to €50,000 through advertisements in Catholic newspapers like 'Alive'. Smaller groups like the National Platform, led by prominent Eurosceptic Anthony Coughlan, will spend an estimated €4,000 and the People Before Profit Alliance hope to finance their 'No' campaign to the tune of €15,000.
The Referendum Commission has a budget of €5m and the National Forum on Europe will spend a high proportion of their annual budget of €3.8m. Both are providing information only to the public.