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|Are we getting our money's worth?|
The presidential campaign of 2004 was stunningly expensive. With still more than eight months to go, the 2008 campaign has already eclipsed those figures.
One organization that follows campaign funding is the Washington, D.C.-based non-partisan, non-profit research group, the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP). According to its web site (www.opensecrets.org), the CRP tracks money in politics, and its affect on elections and public policy.
In an interview with Sheila Krumholz, the executive director of CRP, she commented, "We knew from the start that this would be the most expensive presidential election ever, but to see the pre-primary season alone costing more than entire elections is remarkable."
So, how much are we talking here? I mean, what does real campaign money look like?
Well, some perspective first (Don't complain, you'll learn something!).
In 2000, George W. Bush and Al Gore (and the rest of what I still think were among the worst choices for President ever) raised almost $530 million (spending about 65 percent of that). In 2004, President Bush and Sen. John Kerry raised more than $880 million (spending more than 80 percent).
If the pace of raising and spending (a foreshadowing of a president practicing to tax and spend?) holds, then the 2008 presidential campaign will surpass $1 billion. That is billion with a 'B'. Which rhymes with 'T' and that stands for (higher) taxes.
Just in case you wanted a little trivia…that would equal almost $114,000 per hour for a year of campaign monies. Is Hillary giving you such great leadership that this is a bargain? Is Romney's rhetoric compelling enough for you to fork over your recession-threatened savings? Which of the leading candidates makes you feel like we (the American people) are getting our money's worth?
You may ask yourself, "Self…where does this money come from?"
California and New York have combined so far for more than $125 million, with Texas, Florida and Illinois contributing a paltry $75 million total. With Louisiana's donations totaling only $2.5 million is there any wonder why we only see Obama on television?
And what about sectors? Since there is no liberal bias in Hollywood, or in the television and music industry, are campaign donations evenly distributed among Democrats and Republicans here?
What do you think? Sean Penn is not writing Mitt any checks anytime soon. McCain might pick up some tinsel town scraps, but most of this money has been earmarked for the Democrats.
Clinton, Obama and Edwards (now out of the race) lead this sector by far. In fact, Democrats get more than 81 percent of all entertainment donations. By the way, those numbers also hold for lawyers and law firms, the biggest category by far with almost $50 million contributed. Hillary and Obama also do well with health service and HMOs, hospitals and nursing homes, and pharmaceuticals and health products. But, Hillary and Obama score big with retirees (maybe those expecting health care reform?) as well.
Makes you wonder if they would be able to really 'fix' the heathcare 'crisis' since they are in so deep. Actually, I do not wonder. Whatever is politically expedient at the time will suffice for either. After all, a system that meets the needs of a vast majority of its citizens could hardly be called 'broken' or in a 'crisis'. But, hey, if that gets you to the White House keep railing against the system and collect your donations. Nobody is going to call you a hypocrite. (If you doubt this go back to the section above on media contributions).
The Republicans, in general, have raised more money as a percentage in the transportation, defense and agribusiness sectors. But they still lag way behind their Democratic opponents in terms of total amount.
Another area that is fascinating --- gender. Hillary has 10 percent more men donating money to her campaign than women. Obama's numbers are about the same, although he has more total female donors. On the other hand, donations for Romney and McCain come in two to one, male to female. That could spell a major problem for the GOP in November.
Finally, this year's campaign will spend more than all the presidential races between 1976 and 2000 combined. I do not think this makes Jerry Ford or Jimmy Carter look any better, maybe just cheaper.
At less than $92 million in spending, Ronald Reagan seems more and more like a bargain all the time. But all he did was end the Cold War.
John W. Sutherlin, PhD, is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Louisiana-Monroe. He also is co-director at the ULM Social Science Research Lab. He can be reached by e-mailing Sutherlin@ulm.edu.