Now that the presidential campaign is in full swing, it would be informative to follow the money, campaign money, that is.
An analysis of campaign funding can be confusing. So first, let’s break it down into the two major categories. Presidential candidates can raise money directly from individuals as follows: up to $2,500 per election to federal candidates, $30,800 per calendar year to national parties. Note: There are other restrictions for local and state officials.
These funds are dispersed by the campaigns of the candidates. As of June 17, Obama spent (in millions) $34 and Romney $29.2 on TV ads, the single largest expenditure of a presidential campaign. Of all spending for ads of $174, 37% were positive and 63% negative.
Second, Super PACs and other interest groups may also collect contributions of unlimited amounts and use the money to support candidates and causes of their choosing. Candidates are not permitted to coordinate with PACs that are sympathetic to them or their interests. The largest Super PAC expenses for TV advertising are (in millions): American Crossroads ($29), Restore Our Future ($23) and Americans for Prosperity ($10).
The messages of these organizations are diversified. The largest amounts spent on specific issues are as follows (in millions: jobs ($93), budget/government spending ($92), anti-Obama ($78), taxes ($67), call to action ($44) and pro-Romney ($38).
It is also possible to track negative TV ads by these organizations and the candidates’ organizations. The largest are (in millions): American Crossroads ($29, 100% negative), Restore America ($16, 70%), Romney ($15, 53%), Americans for Prosperity ($10, 100%) and Obama ($10, 29%).
Through May 31, 2012, the three remaining candidates raised the following funds (in millions):
The top donors to outside groups follow (in millions):
A relatively small number of individual donors to PACs represent 3% of all individual donors to super PACs, but 79.4% of all money donated.
Note: Some contributions to 501(c)(4) are not required to disclose contributions.
The following is a list of industries supporting PACs (in millions):
And finally, the following Chart shows how much the largest super PACs raised and spent (in millions):
There is a tremendous amount of money flowing around the political system. It will be used to influence voters in the impending campaign, mostly in TV advertising, the most effective way to present a point of view. The extent of this influence is more than disturbing, especially considering that funds are coming from so few people.