The 2012 Election’s Price Tag: $7 Billion

Shutterstock

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.


The final campaign filings are in, and we can now put a price tag on the 2012 elections: $7 billion.

That’s how much candidates, parties, PACs, super-PACs, and politically active nonprofits spent last year to influence races up and down the ballot. As Politico reported, Ellen Weintraub, the chairwoman of the Federal Election Commission, announced the $7 billion figure this week. Candidates spent the bulk of the 2012 total, at $3.2 billion, while parties spent $2 billion and outside groups $2.1 billion.

The FEC’s $7 billion figure is about a billion dollars more than what transparency groups had projected for 2012. It’s the most money ever spent during one election cycle in US history, a cycle in which Barack Obama became the first $1 billion candidate, both Obama and Romney rejected public financing, and outside spending soared to levels never before seen in the post-Watergate era.

Here’s more from Politico on 2012’s $7 billion price tag:

“It’s obviously only an estimate,” Weintraub told Politico. “It’s really hard to come up with ‘the number.'” And Weintraub said future elections could see even more spending.

“It’s a lot of money. Every presidential election is the most expensive ever. Elections don’t get cheaper,” she added. Spending in the first post-Citizens United presidential election exploded as the FEC remained gridlocked on critical issues. Three years after the Supreme Court ruling that changed the campaign finance system, the FEC has yet to change its regulations to address the decision.

The agency also found that despite the proliferation of super PACs, traditional political action committees outspent the new breed. Of the total spending by outside committees, $1.2 billion was spent by traditional PACs and $950 million was spent by super PACs.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest