Money Talks in Elections. What It’s Saying Isn’t Pretty.

Takepart.comAugust 21, 2012

Mitt Romney has nearly $60 million more in his political bank account than President Obama, according to a report in The Washington Post.

Obama and the Democratic National Committee reported $127 million in the bank on July 31, down from $146 million the month before, according to the campaign’s filings with the Federal Election Commission. By contrast, his challenger and the Republican National Committee have been building up campaign cash, from $170 million in June to $185 million at the end of July.

Romney has raised more money than Obama for three months in a row, but those aggregate numbers hide an advantage for the president: Obama has more money in his own campaign account and less in his party’s. That gives him more say over the funds because under federal law, a candidate can tell the party how to spend a portion of its money, but the rest must be spent independently of the candidate’s control.

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The New York Times adds that, “It is not unusual for challengers to outraise incumbents late in the campaign, and while Mr. Obama is being outraised now, he raised far more than Mr. Romney through 2011 and early this year.”

“But Mr. Romney’s extraordinary two-month run raising money—his team has pulled more than $200 million in June and July—makes it virtually certain that Mr. Obama will not leave the Democratic convention next month with the cash advantage he had four years ago, when he heavily outspent the Republican candidate, John McCain, on his way to victory in November.”

Now I know this is the way political campaigns go these days, but every election cycle I get so depressed thinking about the endless number of more positive ways all of this money could be spent.

Naive? Maybe. But, billions of dollars?

That’s what Reuters reported last August saying, “Forget the struggling economy. There’s one U.S. industry—Big Politics—that is looking ahead to a record year in 2012.”

“The U.S. elections will be the most expensive ever, with a total price tag of $6 billion or even more, fueled by millions of dollars in unrestricted donations as Republicans and Democrats vie for control of the White House, Congress and state governments. ‘It’s safe to say that, given that we had a $5 billion cycle in 2008, it will certainly be more than that and very likely over $6 billion, which is just an astonishing growth rate,’ said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign spending.”

“The cost of the election is surprising given that only the Republican Party is holding presidential primaries, unlike in 2008 when both parties had expensive contests to find a candidate.”

If you’d like a visual aid that compares the last 150 years in presidential campaign costs, check out this chart provided by Mother Jones.

In February, the magazine noted that, “Barack Obama spent $730 million getting to the White House in 2008—twice as much as George W. Bush spent 4 years earlier and more than 260 times what Abraham Lincoln spent in his first election (as measured in 2011 dollars) . . . it would seem that the White House is the ultimate recession-proof commodity.”

Like I said, regardless of which candidate you want to see come out on top this fall, that’s just depressing.

What do you think about the escalating costs of running for public office? Do candidates really need to spend this much money to convince us that they’re the right man or woman for the job? Tell it in COMMENTS.

Lawrence Karol is a writer and editor who lives with his dog, Mike. He is a former Gourmet staffer and enjoys writing about design, food, travel and lots of other stuff. @WriteEditDream | Email Lawrence |