The $7,000,000,000 campaign
February 1st, 2013
10:11 AM ET
5 years ago

The $7,000,000,000 campaign

Washington (CNN) – The 2012 campaign was expensive. Like, twenty-eight Boeing 787s expensive. Or seventy private islands expensive. Or 50 billion polio vaccines expensive.

In total, candidates, parties and outside groups spent $7 billion during the 2012 election cycle, a record breaking – though not surprising - figure for campaign expenditures, according to the Federal Election Commission.

"That's not really unusual. They're all record breaking," FEC chairwoman Ellen Weintraub said during the panel's meeting Thursday.

Seven billion dollars is higher than an estimate offered in October by the Center for Responsive Politics, which predicted $6 billion would be spent on the 2012 contests.

According to the FEC's breakdown, candidates spent $3.2 billion in 2012. That includes all races, including the presidential contest and congressional battles across the country. Party committees, like the RNC and the DNC, spent $2 billion. Outside groups (including super PACs) also spent $2 billion, though that number is still being calculated by the FEC and could rise.

Weintraub said Thursday it could be the first time those outside groups outspent political parties. Of that outside spending, $1.2 billion was spent by traditional PACs, and $950 million by super PACs, which are allowed to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money as long as they don't coordinate with the campaigns.

And the numbers will continue to rise in coming years, according to Weintraub. Aside from the unlimited amounts that super PACs can raise, contributions to campaigns themselves are poised to spike. The FEC increased the limits on contributions to campaigns to $2,600 per election to keep up with inflation. The annual limit for individual contributions to party committees increased to $32,400.

In all, the FEC processed 11 million pages of documents filed during the 2012 calendar year, Weintraub said.

CNN's Robert Yoon contributed to this report.

Filed under: 2012 • FEC
soundoff (54 Responses)
  1. CronoT

    This is all the result of SOCUS & Citizens United. It's bad precedent, bad law, & we're all reaping the whirlwind now.

    February 1, 2013 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  2. Babyboomer

    Just think of the incredible good that money could have done putting people back to work in the US, in research for cures for some of our chronic illnesses, higher education and a host of other much more worthwhile endeavors. We really need to re-access our priorities.

    February 1, 2013 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  3. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    There is too much money in politics. The SOCUS failed to understand that money corrupts politics. Have they not seen all the politicians convicted for taking money that they shouldn't for various things? If I were a conspiracy theorist, I would say that many of the conservatives there are being paid for by corporations.

    @CronoT - that is so true; can't agree more.

    February 1, 2013 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  4. PJ

    "And the numbers will continue to rise in coming years......................."
    Not out of my pocket it won't. What money we would donate to a candidate, will instead go a charity.
    The sad part is that none of these yahoos are embarrassed or ashamed of what they spent.
    The Supreme Court is less that "supreme" on this decision and they aren't ashamed.
    And they are out there again, raising 'hate' money, because that is what it is. No solutions, but plenty of
    hate talk.
    Babyboomer is right! "Just think of the incredible good........".

    February 1, 2013 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  5. Rudy NYC

    Combine the Citizens United ruling and Mitt Romney declaring that corporations are people, how long will it take before these "people" to demand the right to vote. If I own multiple corporations, wouldn't that give control of several "people" and the right to several votes? Can't anyone out there see how imperial capitalists are trying to take over this democracy?

    February 1, 2013 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  6. maf

    And thank goodness, the Democratic money spent enabled President Obama to get re-elected over the GOP money spent for Mitt. It all looks bad in the big scheme of things, but that's how the SCOTUS sees it!!

    February 1, 2013 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  7. Wake up People!

    The SCOTUS should be ashamed of themselves. This is obscene.

    February 1, 2013 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  8. Ancient Texan

    S,B. _Yes the the SOCUS understood that money corrupts politics and allowed Corporations to do what the Unions had been doing for years. They leveled the playing field.

    February 1, 2013 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  9. Rudy NYC

    Ancient Texan wrote:

    S,B. _Yes the the SOCUS understood that money corrupts politics and allowed Corporations to do what the Unions had been doing for years. They leveled the playing field.
    How is what unions were doing any different from christian conservative leaders have been donig? By the way, just what exactly were the unions doing that required a leveling of the playing field anyway? Most corporate donations have been going to conservatives for decades on end.

    Most people feel that Citizens United didn't level the field, rather it put a thumb on the scales.

    February 1, 2013 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  10. Saboth

    Blame the Supreme Court. What's interested is despite his corporate interest backing, Romney still lost by a large margin. I guess money can't buy you everything.

    February 1, 2013 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  11. Lynda/Minnesota

    "Not out of my pocket it won't. What money we would donate to a candidate, will instead go a charity."

    I agee, PJ. Using Preibus as an example, it doesn't matter who the candidate is, but what the candidate can say against their opposition that will bring in the big buck donations. Michelle Bachmann has this pegged to a T ... mouth off and get the FOX-0-Bots to send dollars. Eventually even HER most faithful will get the picture and stop giving.

    As for the Supreme Court ruling and the Kochs' (and others) billionaire influence ... it is what it is ... pathetic.

    February 1, 2013 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  12. Ohio

    Cost's a bunch to throw a election dosen't it?
    Would really like to see the real vote of all that were legal

    February 1, 2013 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  13. not in WI

    So the message to the unemployed should be that if you spend enough money telling people how great you are then you can find a job too. It only costs a billion dollars to get the job of president. The weird thing is that th e salary for President is less than 0.5% of the cost to get the job. Sounds like most other government programs.

    February 1, 2013 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  14. TimM

    OK...I now understand the deliberate (???) misrepresentation of the SCOTUS in the post above. But my question is who do we really blame for this. As posted earlier, the Unions have been doing this for years, now the Corporations can do it also. If my memory serves me correctly, it was President Obama that stated his campaign needed to raise ONE BILLION DOLLARS to combat the money the Republicans 'might raise'. If anyone can not see that most of our politicians are in it for the money and not for the good of the Country, then unfortunately we get what we voted for, as sad as that my be.

    February 1, 2013 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  15. bob caspar

    Rudy, you are right. If a corporation is alleged to be a person, for political reasons, then that really gives someone more than one vote, even if that vote is cast by the huge amount of monies spent for one political party It makes no sense. I'm afraid that there is no hope for America as long as these ridiculous desisions are made over and over again for the benefit of one candidate or political party. Politics is the biggest industry in America. Unfortunately it produces no products.

    February 1, 2013 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  16. The Real Tom Paine

    Rudy, don't bother tryng to explain facts to Ancient Texan and his/her/its ilk: they are convinced they are somehow persecuted, and that the wealthy have a Rand-given right to keep us in perpetual servitude to them because they are more virtuous than the rest of us. What is more galling to them is that they failed, and they have the nerve to blame the intellingence of the voting public they tried to keep from the polls.

    February 1, 2013 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  17. Clarke

    I don't feel there is any reason to spend that kind of money. IMHO

    February 1, 2013 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  18. Rick 7809

    The 7 billion dollars is bad enough, but people (that is individuals and corporations) think the money is an investment in their position so they can make more money benefiting from the people that get elected. That is where the real money is.

    February 1, 2013 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  19. Curt

    What a waste of money. I'am sure there are charities and disaster funds that could have used some of that money. Maybe people in New York and New Jersey that are still homeless from the storm could have used some of that money to rebuild. Just a form of legalized corruption. Members of congress indebted to those that helped get them elected. Only difference between the U.S. and third world countries is the politicians in the third world get their money in a brown paper bag.

    February 1, 2013 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  20. Johnny

    I really don't care who wins elections as long as they are hotly contested and people get fired up over them. My tiny 3 person media relations firm brought in over $4 million dollars during this election cycle. I can now enjoy a year off before the mid-term election races begin. I absolutely love US Politics.

    February 1, 2013 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  21. Brian

    The worst part of all this is that the 7 BILLION dollars spent was essentially wasted – there was no significant change in the political landscape once all the dust settled. Obama is still in the White House, the Democrats still control the Senate, and the republicans still control the House by virtually the same margins as they did before the elections. This is a shameful and disgraceful waste of money that could have been put to better use almost anywhere in the budget. This system is clearly broken and needs to be corrected.

    February 1, 2013 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  22. Richard

    I think it's ok because it's the only time money comes BACK from Israel to the U.S.

    February 1, 2013 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  23. Rudy NYC

    The Republican Party should be afraid for its' future existence. As being the party of the rich, they have cast their fate to be with those of the wealthy. The biggest fear that any imperial capitalist faces is the people doing the work deciding for themselves that they deserve a larger share of the profit. That day of reckoning is approaching us very quickly.

    February 1, 2013 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  24. Jack in Florida

    Absolutlely disgusting!!! This is all do to the Repubs changing the rules regarding political contributions, to help their cause. They try to restrict the voting within, their states, they try to increase their spending and now they are trying to change the electoral college. If they can't win fairly, they try and change the rules and cheat to win. Such lack of integrity on their part. They are becoming irrelevant!!!!

    February 1, 2013 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  25. MeapersoninUS

    American's might want to look and see why NOTHING GETS DONE IN CONGRESS the more money get's spent. SAD

    February 1, 2013 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
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