2012 election spending topped $6 billion

This is the first of two posts about the actual dollars in this election (the second will deal with foreign contributions, which foreigners freely admit to). Here’s the New York Times on this cycle’s monstrous election cost, with some of the numbers from big donors.

But first, let’s set the scene (my emphasis and some reparagraphing everywhere):

At the private air terminal at Logan Airport in Boston early Wednesday, men in unwrinkled suits sank into plush leather chairs as they waited to board Gulfstream jets, trading consolations over Mitt Romney’s loss the day before.

“All I can say is the American people have spoken,” said Kenneth Langone, the founder of Home Depot and one of Mr. Romney’s top fund-raisers, briskly plucking off his hat and settling into a couch.

Money politics corruption

Money via Shutterstock

These are the people whose feet never touch the ground, whose chauffeurs strew roses before them, whose wives never see the inside of a PornoScan, whose infants drink milk served by an endless line of Chinese factory workers — Your Betters, in other words. Somehow your NY Times reporters were allowed into that room.

I would suggest reading the article itself for just these touches alone. They appear throughout.

The total cost — more than $6 billion

Now to the data. On the total cost of this year’s two-year-long ad campaign (er, presidential election):

The most expensive election in American history drew to a close this week with a price tag estimated at more than $6 billion, propelled by legal and regulatory decisions that allowed wealthy donors to pour record amounts of cash into races around the country.

Those regulations also enabled foreign contributions too, don’t forget. Note though that mention of foreign contributions appears to be banned from domestic discourse — that “client state” implication could be way too close to the truth for the rubes to read. Those stories are found mainly in the foreign press.

Some individuals spent many millions

As to the contributors, the article offers these early glimpses. About Sheldon Adelson:

The biggest single donor in political history, the casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, mingled with other Romney backers at a postelection breakfast, fresh off a large gamble gone bad. Of the eight candidates he supported with tens of millions of dollars in contributions to “super PACs,” none were victorious on Tuesday. …

Mr. Adelson’s giving to super PACs and other outside groups came to more than $60 million.

On  Karl Rove’s super PACs:

And as calls came in on Wednesday from some of the donors who had poured more than $300 million into the pair of big-spending outside groups founded in part by Karl Rove — perhaps the leading political entrepreneur of the super PAC era — [Adelson] offered them a grim upside: without us, the race would not have been as close as it was.

The Adelson theme above — “we needed to spend this much to keep it this close” — is a continuing subtheme of the article. But back to my money point. On wrestling momma (and real-America rube darling) Linda McMahon:

Linda E. McMahon, a Connecticut Republican who is a former professional wrestling executive, spent close to $100 million — nearly all of it her own money — on two races for the Senate, conceding defeat on Tuesday for the second time in three years.

Next, a tale of three spenders, including the Chicago Cubs owner:

Harold Simmons, a Texas industrialist, gave $26.9 million to super PACs backing Mr. Romney and Republican candidates for the Senate.

Joe Ricketts, the owner of the Chicago Cubs, spent close to $13 million to bankroll a super PAC attacking Mr. Obama over federal spending.

Bob Perry, a Texas homebuilder, poured more than $21 million into super PACs active in the presidential race and the Senate battles in Florida and Virginia, where Democrats narrowly prevailed.

See what happens when sports owners are made invisible to the fans? Fans give them their money to spend against them. Dumb; really dumb. Take that, Cubs fans. And don’t worry, there’s plenty more waiting. You give him the wherewithal, every losing season.

Koch Bros may have raised over $400 million

I’ll end with the Koch Bros. From the article:

A donor network marshaled by Charles and David Koch, the billionaire industrialists and conservative philanthropists, reportedly sought to raise $400 million for tax-exempt groups that are not required to disclose their spending.

That’s almost a half-billion dollars from the efforts of two guys, each worth $25 billion, by the way. Did you note the “‘reportedly”? That’s because there’s an acre of money laundering through these pretend-non-political non-profits. Click to see just one instance that is coming to light in California. Moving dark money is the name of the game for these guys — all of them.

Where did all that money go?

We’ve covered this before, but I’d be remiss in not mentioning it here. Where did all this money go? Most of it went to the media:

Remember how I said above that the media — the networks and TV stations — were a huge part of the [election reform] problem? Most people only look at the front end of the election system. They see how Big Money buys candidates who pay them back with favorable laws, low taxes, and lack of prosecutions.

But think of the candidate as just a pass-through for the cash. The money starts somewhere (Our Betters); they give it to campaigns and campaign surrogates; tons of people take a very generous cut; and it ends up somewhere. The candidate isn’t bought with the money; the candidate is bought with electoral office.

What does most of that money actually buy? TV time. Very expensive TV time. Think for a minute from the standpoint of the network or TV station owner:

■ I the media owner have a broadcast license that, in practice, I can never lose. (I pray daily to the Great God Clinton, blessings on his name, for that one.)

■ I have a political system that allows me to charge big bucks for what used to be free — access to TV for candidates.

■ I have a campaign financing system that dumps unlimited money into the pockets of politicians and their supporters — and that money needs to be spent.

■ Who do they spend it on? Me.

As a general rule, 75% of campaign money goes to media and communications, and while I don’t have the TV numbers (national and local), I’d bet that TV accounts for the bulk of it.

And this is why we may never get low-cost uncorrupted elections. It’s not just the candidates who are corrupted. Everyone who touches that money is corrupted — especially the end-user, our national and local media. They will kill to keep things just like this. Wouldn’t you, if you were a monomaniac money-seeker (sorry, corporate-profit-responsible CEO)?

Next up, foreign contribs. We don’t talk about it much, here in the U.S. of A. — that sale of real national independence would make even the rubes nervous. But the foreign press has no such qualms.


To follow or send links: @Gaius_Publius

Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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28 Responses to “2012 election spending topped $6 billion”

  1. Ahmed Ahmed says:

    It’s sad to know that even in the 21st century, money can buy politics. Of the $6 billion spent on the 2012 election, majority of it came from private donations, however, its not so much were it came from, but were and how it was spent. This will be the most expensive election in the history of America. This election was $700 million more than 2008 election. The Hufftington Post projects that $6 billion could prevent 4 million malaria deaths, cover half the budget for FEMA, pay off one monthly payment on the mortgage for 6 million Americans, and provide universal primary education until 2015. While we waste $6 billion on politics, we could be changing the world for the better, but we rather spend $6 billion on putting people in office to make changes to the world. Even in today’s world, money can buy politics.

  2. Papa Bear says:

    “Lord, the money we do spend on Government and it’s not one bit better than the government we got for one-third the money twenty years ago.”
    ― Will Rogers

  3. Jke101 says:

    How about starting with the ringleaders–the KOCH Brothers? Boycott
    Georgia Pacific products including Angel Soft, Brawny, Sparkle, Dixie,
    Mardi Gras, and Vanity Fair along with Stainmaster, Lycra, Dacron and
    others. These brothers and their families have arrogantly thought that
    they could take over the government tax policy, fund teabaggin
    activities, and establish think talks like the Cato Institute that
    outwardly slant their research to support the 1% desires.

    Why put money into the pockets of those who hate democracy so much?

  4. Outspoken1 says:

    It is so hard to ‘spend blue’ when you either don’t know who is ‘blue’ or their is no choice in your area (for instance, many smaller communities only have a Wal-Mart sine Wal-Mart drove all the small buisness owners out of business). Here is an interesting article about companies who try to conceal their political spending – http://retailindustry.about.com/od/topusretailcompanies/a/Secret-Political-Spending-Large-U-S-Retail-Chains-Wal-Mart-LoweS-Amazon-Campaign-Contributions.htm

    Any chance some has a link of ‘blue’ companies?

  5. HeartlandLiberal says:

    Put in perspective, 6 billion dollars is about 23% of what the American Society of Engineers says we should be spending RIGHT NOW to repair America’s aging and crumbling infrastructure of roads, bridges, and waterways. And that would have been a much better way to spend, restoring infrastructure, and providing tens of thousands of honest jobs.

  6. hollywoodstein says:

    Free speech sure is expensive.

  7. hollywoodstein says:

    Reform. At the very least disclosure.

    Even the five corrupt Supremes countenanced disclosure. Let us see who gave the American Petroleum Institute money to influence US elections. Let us see which corporations gave how much money where, and let their customers and shareholders decide if they like it. Let us see who hates teh gays they put their name on it.
    The parade of horribles predicted by the dissent in Citizens United has proved true, foremost among them a loss of confidence in the integrity of elections.

  8. hollywoodstein says:

    6 billion? Free speech sure is expensive.

  9. hollywoodstein says:

    Uh-oh, here comes the rum.

  10. hollywoodstein says:

    Well one, CEO John Schnatter is a child. Prolly gives him cover to cut employee wages even more. He’d be better off making a better pizza instead of spending dough on advertising and squeezing margins. Seriously, learn to make your own. With quality toppings. You can even buy the dough in stores now. Use real cheese. You’ll be glad you did.
    F*ck Dominoes, and Fukk Papa Johns.

  11. hollywoodstein says:

    And for all you cite, Obama’s victory in swing states was onion skin thin. Ohio, Florida, and Virginia would’ve easily gone the other way with only a bad campaign instead of a disastrously bad campaing by Romney. For all the happy happy joy joy the future is now, the election was a close run thing and Team Obama threaded a needle.

  12. hollywoodstein says:

    No Chik Fil A for me, no Home Depot, no chain pizza. I vote blue, and I buy blue.

  13. hollywoodstein says:

    I know dozens of African Americans who would not have voted otherwise, who got Fired up, and Ready To Go, because of Suppression efforts. The call back was Hell No!

  14. mf_roe says:

    Hilary’s window has closed, period.

  15. guesto says:

    Does Hillary have a better shot in 2016 if Obama plays this “fiscal dip” hand as if he owns all the cards, which, in fact, he does? Or would a “grand bargain” give her a better shot?

  16. mf_roe says:


  17. Indigo says:

    “A billion here and a billion there, pretty soon you’re talking real money.”
    -Senator Everett Dirksen, Democrat from Illinois, 1896-1969

  18. mf_roe says:

    Waste of money my ass, the vast majority of Americans are even more invested in the idea that we have a system of government responsive to the majority. The propagandists just got a huge bonus for reenforcing that delusion. The parasite class of billionaires should have been broken, they instead drove back to their castles with their status secure. I’d say they got more value for their money than the masses will get for their votes.

  19. colleen2 says:

    We should organize a massive boycott of Home Depot and listen to them really whine.

  20. mf_roe says:

    Sadly, the like button only works once.

  21. caphillprof says:

    Gaius, you need to take the next step with respect to all this campaign cash ending up in the pockets of media folk. Because so much money goes into their pockets (1) they obviously have no interest in any change to this big money political process and (2) they obviously have an interest in pretending that every election is close, very close, going down to the wire close, which means that they are willing to broadcast propaganda rather than political news.

    Also, I continue to wonder about the effectiveness of commercial advertising and especially political advertising. I wonder if the Karl Rove advertising, rather than convincing folk to vote his way, made them angry about the mendacity. I think Karl may actually have caused Democrats to go to the polls to vote against this advertising, as much as to vote for Obama or other Democratic candidates.

  22. lynchie says:

    And so we should stop buying the products they produce, stop attending the sporting events that support them and stop buying and places like Home Depot where the prices we pay allow these guys to have so much surplus cash that they cam find $20 or $30 million lying around to throw at buying the election and that applies to the Dems as well. I spoke to my daughter in Paris after the election and she mentioned a couple of interesting things from her perspective. She said the Occupy Now movement brought the disparity between the 1% and the 99% into the front pages of newspapers and onto the television. I think that was a major part of Obama’s victory. It was less to do with Obama and his non promises and more to do with Romney being the face of the 1%. His dancing horse, elevator for cars, shipping jobs to China, gutting companies and pensions and she said her circle of friends we appalled at the video of the 47% are losers.
    The arrogance of the rich was front and center and Americans did not like it, minorities did not like it, women did not like having men tell them what to do about their bodies.
    Now it remains to be seen what Obama will do. Will he act on our mandate and do for the people or will he bow to his masters and gut SS and medicare, do nothing about Wall Street regulations, do nothing about Climate Change, continue foreign excursions, start closing some of our 800 military bases around the world. Time will tell and it will forge his legacy.

  23. Charles says:

    All that money pumped into the economy must have helped propel Obama back into the White House.

  24. ezpz says:

    About that $6 billion, Cornell West:

    “Well, one, I think that it’s morally obscene and spiritually profane to spend $6 billion on an election, $2 billion on a presidential election, and not have any serious discussion—poverty, trade unions being pushed against the wall dealing with stagnating and declining wages when profits are still up and the 1 percent are doing very well, no talk about drones dropping bombs on innocent people. So we end up with such a narrow, truncated political discourse, as the major problems—ecological catastrophe, climate change, global warming. So it’s very sad. I mean, I’m glad there was not a right-wing takeover, but we end up with a Republican, a Rockefeller Republican in blackface, with Barack Obama, so that our struggle with regard to poverty intensifies.”


  25. nicho says:

    without us, the race would not have been as close as it was.

    “Almost” only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.

  26. tsuki says:

    I understand that they tried to buy the election.

    I don’t understand the very public temper tantrums they are throwing because they could not buy the election. Papa John’s CEO John Schnatter will be cutting his employees hours because the American people did not vote like he told them to vote. Other CEOs have stated that they will follow John Schnatter’s example.

    They have probably always done this, but they have never been so “in your face” about it.

  27. jomicur says:

    6 billion, and for what? For all the progressive victories (and I feel as good about them as anyone, especially the gay victories), the net effect of Tuesday’s vote was stasis, a continuation of the status quo. Same neocon-in-liberal’s-clothing president, same evenly divided congress (= more gridlock). So the media and the political class profited hugely from, effectively, nothing. But, hey, this is the greatest country in the world, right? So why change anything?

  28. UncleBucky says:

    OK, $6 billion. Now, could we follow the money and daylight people like Koch? And kneecap these few obvious sources? Also, embarrass the recipients, too. ;o)

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