US Elections Will Cost $5.3 Billion

This election is likely to be the most expensive US election in history, with Democrat Barack Obama shattering previous fundraising records. But what does this mean for democracy, and will these contributions impact legislation?

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In September, Democratic candidate Barack Obama broke the record for money raised in one month by a presidential candidate, raising $150 million. To date, he has raised more than Bush and Kerry did combined in the 2004 election and his campaign is spending money in ways that no other candidate has.

According to Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman, “The Obama campaign has “flooded the zone” with advertising. It has a full-time “Obama Channel” on Dish Network. Ads have been inserted into video games like “Guitar Hero.” The campaign has bought a full 30 minutes of prime-time airtime on NBC, CBS, and Fox six days before the election. Fox even moved the start time of the World Series to accommodate the ad buy, provided there will be a Game 6.

Goodman is one of the few reporters in the US to raise the question of what this level of campaign fundraising and spending will mean for democracy. The Obama campaign has been claiming that most of his money is coming from small donors, but as we reported a few days ago, the bulk of his money is coming from large corporate sectors.

The Center for Responsive Politics (CPR) recently predicted that $5.3 billion would be spent on this election before it is over, making it the most expensive election to date. $2.4 billion will be spent on the presidential election alone. The CPR has documented that business interests account for about 72% of the money that has been raised so far. The non-partisan website also reports that the leading industries for campaign contributions in 2008 are real estate, insurance and finance. However, the dominant donor group by far is the financial sector, which has favored Democratic candidates overwhelmingly:

“After ActBlue, the online organization that directs individual contributions to progressive candidates, the top corporation in 2008 is once again Goldman Sachs. The global investment bank’s employees and PAC have contributed at least $5 million to the ’08 campaign. Citigroup is next at $4.2 million, followed by JPMorgan Chase & Co. at $4.1 million. The biggest-giving industry association is the National Association of Realtors, which has given nearly $3.2 million.”

The CPR also identifies incumbents as the likely winners in this year’s election. All candidates for the House and the Senate have raised $1.5 billion as of the most recent FEC filing, with incumbents having a very substantial advantage over newcomers. Executive Director of CPR, Sheila Krumholtz states:

“The Democrats’ takeover of Congress in the 2006 election quickly shifted the fundraising advantage to their side. Money follows power. The Republican Party’s longtime lead in the campaign finance game has been erased in this election, due to the Democrats’ control of the congressional agenda and their side’s more skillful use of online fundraising, especially in the presidential race.”

We will provide any updates on this issue in the remaining days before the election and more importantly, we will continue to track how campaign contributions impact legislation after the New Year, no matter which administration takes office.

Author: mediamouse

Grand Rapids independent media // mediamouse.org