This election year, MediaMouse.org has reported on a number of the difficulties facing third party candidates for president. We have covered the difficulties candidates face in getting on the ballot, their frequent exclusion from debates, and their exclusion from media coverage. Many of these methods of marginalizing third parties are institutionalized by laws and policies deliberately designed to make it difficult for candidates to operation outside of the two party system.
Another area in which third party candidates face nearly insurmountable difficulties is fundraising. The Center for Public Integrity recently reviewed third party fundraising and found that it pales in comparison to the major party candidates. Ralph Nader’s independent campaign has raised the most out of third party challenges, taking in $3.7 million. His total is more than triple that of the next closest, Libertarian candidate Bob Barr, who has raised $1.1 million. Other candidacies don’t even come close to that amount, with Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney raising only $177,915, Constitution Party candidate Chuck Baldwin raising $241,934, and independent candidate Alan Keyes raising $415,000.
By comparison, Democratic Party candidate Barack Obama has raised $621 million and Republican candidate John McCain has raised $371.3 million. In September, Obama’s daily average–over $5 million per day–was more than that raised by third party candidates all election.
Of course, the candidates’ fundraising difficulties are intertwined with the other challenges facing them. Few people will see them as viable candidates worth their financial support if they don’t receive media attention, yet the media often dismisses third party candidates as not having “visible” campaigns. Yet, how can they be visible if they don’t have the money to travel the country, pay organizers, and receive the free media coverage given the major party candidates?