Have you donated $5 to a campaign this election cycle? Or texted a number to give $10 to a candidate you support? I personally gave $10 to Obama’s campaign every time I was promised a free bumper sticker or magnet, both because I support the candidate and I love election swag. Although I have given money to Obama’s campaign a few times this year, I was shocked when I learned that elections as a whole cost over a billion dollars. The Center for Responsive Politics recently released a study which stated that the 2012 election could end up costing $6 billion. This number is disgustingly large and makes me wonder- where is this money going?
The presidential election is the largest race in the general election, and it is therefore no surprise that the presidential election accounts for almost half of total election spending. This year, it is estimated that the presidential election will cost $2.6 billion (“Total Cost of Election Could Be $6 Billion”). Below, a chart from the New York Times shows how much each of the two remaining candidates have raised and how much of that they have spent. The blue indicates Barack Obama, whereas the red indicates Mitt Romney. Although Mitt Romney is often portrayed as the wealthier candidate who gets large contributions from supporters and therefore has more money to spend, it is clear that Obama has been able to fundraise more than his opponent. It will be interesting to see how much the candidates spend in the last week of the election, as they try to make the push to win over voters.
Although the presidential election accounts for a good portion of election spending, candidates running for the House of Representatives and the Senate also have very expensive races. According to the New York Times article “Total Cost of Election Could Be $6 Billion,” “independent expenditures in the House and Senate races increased from $46 million to $445 million”. Although the country has become more divided and more attention has been placed on congressional races, I still find shocking how much independent expenditures have raised in the past 4 years. With highly contested congressional races, like my own states senate race between Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren, I have witnessed an increase in advertisements and attention placed on congressional races. While I at first found the attention interesting, I am now sick of hearing about the senate race in my state, as well as senate races in other states.
As more money is used in campaigns, I personally become more and more eager for them to end. Not only do I want to know how these elections turn out, but I am excited to stop getting emails, seeing advertisements and reading about elections. Further, as our country is still rebounding from a recession, I think that money from citizens, super PACs, outside groups, and corporations could be used in more productive ways. Although I believe that campaigns could be cheaper, I do not see the cost of elections dropping anytime soon.