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US President Ready to Set Record for Campaign Money

Image from a video announcement of US President Barack Obama's 2012 re-election campaign that was launched on April 4, 2011

Image from a video announcement of US President Barack Obama's 2012 re-election campaign that was launched on April 4, 2011

Earlier this week [Monday, April 4] U.S. President Barack Obama officially announced plans to run for re-election. Organizers say they hope to raise a record amount of money for the election in 2012. takes a look at how American campaigns got to be so expensive and if money translates into electability.

A video on the Obama website motivates Americans to support the president's re-election. "We're not leaving it up to chance," says one woman.

On another page, support of a different kind is requested - money.

Obama campaign organizers plan to raise as much as $1 billion. That would make the 2012 U.S. presidential election the most expensive ever, because other candidates would need similar amounts to be competitive. But there is a problem for some voters: the taint of money.

"I think they are just more about who can raise the most money is going to win," said one man who voiced his opinion on the subject.

Another said, "It seems ludicrous, but it also seems like that’s the way it is today."

And, it is that way partly because of a ruling last year by the U.S. Supreme Court. The justices overturned corporate limits on campaign contributions, meaning companies and unions can donate any amount they can afford.

"The more money you have to raise, the more power that corporations and lobbyists have, and the less power and less democracy we have in this country - the farther we get from democracy," said a woman who addressed the topic.

Doug Kendall founded the legal advocacy group Constitutional Accountability Center. He said the High Court decision gives big power to big business.

"They can't run for office," he said. "They can't vote. But they now - under the Supreme Court's ruling, which I think is profoundly wrong - can spend unlimited amounts of money to influence the outcome of our election process."

The president himself criticized the decision in his State of the Union last year.

"The Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests - including foreign companies - to spend without limit in our elections. Well, I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests."

Yet, the ruling makes his billion-dollar goal easier to reach.

The fact is, TV advertisements cost money. And, modern campaigns have to spend huge amounts to win elections. Dave Levinthal's organization tracks money in politics.

"If you are just standing on the street corner hoping people are going to recognize you or come to you, good luck," said Levinthal. "You are pretty much going to get beat up in every shape and form by the guy who is able to disseminate his or her messages."

To win the presidency in 2008, Barack Obama raised three-quarters of a billion dollars, making him the most successful individual fundraiser in U.S. history. Levinthal said if anyone is going to hit the billion-dollar threshold, it's Barack Obama.

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    Carolyn Presutti

    Carolyn Presutti is an Emmy and Silver World Medal award winning television correspondent who works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters. She has also won numerous Associated Press TV, Radio, and Multimedia awards, as well as a Clarion for her TV coverage of The Syrian Medical Crisis, Haiti, The Boston Marathon Bombing, Presidential Politics, The Southern Economy, Google Glass & Other Wearables, and the 9/11 Anniversary.