News / USA

US Presidential Race Is Hugely Expensive, Highly Regulated

Both major U.S. political parties - the Democrats and the Republicans - spend massive sums of money on the race to win the White House. This effort is highly regulated by U.S. laws meant to ensure accountability and transparency. In this segment of How America Elects, VOA's Jeffrey Young looks at campaign financing and the rules that control it.

The most expensive residential address in the United States is not in Hollywood - or Manhattan. It's 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington - the White House. Its current occupant, Barack Obama, raised nearly $750 million in 2008 to win the presidency and move in there.  

The two major U.S. parties, the Democrats and the Republicans, are locked in a massive fundraising effort that escalates with every presidential election.

In 1992, the two parties raised a total of $135 million. Sixteen years later, in 2008, they collectively took in $1.68 billion.

Where does all that money go? At the independent research organization The Heritage Foundation in Washington, analyst Brian Darling outlines the high costs of campaigning.

"The advertisements that cost millions of dollars to run, be it radio or TV, the traveling expenses throughout the country - it's going to cost a lot of money for these candidates to travel on a daily basis, and also the massive campaign organizations that these candidates need to put together," said Darling.

In the 1970s, Congress created a federal regulatory agency called the Federal Election Commission, or F.E.C. Its twin goals are accountability and transparency, as outlined by Commissioner Cynthia Bauerly.

"Everything that campaigns and candidates and parties do in our [political] system is reported to our central location here at the F.E.C. And, that [information] is almost immediately available to anyone who wants it on our website," said Bauerly.

Current federal regulations limit presidential candidate contributions from individuals to $2,500, with most organizations limited to $5,000. Corporations and unions face strong restrictions.  

Along with creating the F.E.C., Congress also created a system of public financing, under which, in exchange for government funds, candidates accept limits on other cash they might raise. But in the 2012 presidential race, no candidates from either party have accepted public funding.

In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that outside advocacy groups have the right to raise and spend money to influence elections. These political action committees, commonly called "PACs," have increasingly become a major force in the electoral process.

"Really, there are few rules here for these groups," said reporter David Levinthal at the Politico newspaper in Washington. "They can raise and spend unlimited sums of money. They can spend it whenever they want to. There is no time limitation. The messaging they put out is not limited. They can directly, overtly, advocate for a candidate's election - or directly, overtly oppose a candidate."

Observers say the 2012 presidential election may be the first in which this outside "PAC" money may wind up exceeding what the candidates and their parties officially raise for themselves. And there are some who say they fear what may become a tsunami of outside money essentially determining elections.


Jeffrey Young

Jeffrey Young came to the “Corruption” beat after years of doing news analysis, primarily on global strategic issues such as nuclear proliferation.  During most of 2013, he was on special assignment in Baghdad and elsewhere with the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR).  Previous VOA activities include VOA-TV, where he created the “How America Works” and “How America Elects” series, and the “Focus” news analysis unit.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Srebrenica Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs countermeasure at UN More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prisoni
X
Heather Murdock
July 01, 2015 8:59 PM
As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs