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

    California Republicans Mull Choices in Presidential Race

    Ted Cruz tells state's Republican Convention delegates campaign will be 'battle on the ground, district by district by district,' ahead of June 7 primary

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, many Kurds are trying to escape turmoil by focusing on success of football team Amedspor

    South African Company Designs Unique Solar Cooker

    Two-man team of solar power technologists introduces Sol4, hot plate that heats up so fast it’s like cooking with gas or electricity

    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.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora