The $7,000,000,000 campaign
February 1st, 2013
10:11 AM ET
1 year 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. B

    Get over it Ohio. There is a whole lot of evidence that a lot of "legal" voters were unable to vote because of Repulibcan shenanigans e.g. Florida. Just maybe it was because of the weak candidates and extreme messages of the Republicans that they lost.

    February 1, 2013 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  2. K Legates

    The curious thing is that this amount of money was raised at a time when the message of many was that the previous four years were brutal to the economy. A $7 billion dollar expenditure isn't made in a down economy without some expectation of return on investment. How many don't believe that money buys influence. QED, the rich or make that the ultra rich run the government and the politicians with their election law antics and their obscene redistributing follies will see to it that the cash spigot continues to flow into their pocket. The sick thing of all of it is that there is no outcry from the general public that is resulting in a grass roots effort to clean up the morass.

    February 1, 2013 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  3. Pam from Iowa

    At a time when members of Congress whine about helping out a fellow American who cannot afford insurance, these jokers are willing to spend $7 billion on campaign ads, etc, most of which are not even truthful!
    Americans are quickly becoming a sick and pathetic society that places importance on the wrong things!

    February 1, 2013 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  4. Pam from Iowa

    Elections are bought – plain and simple!!
    and as far as the SCOTUS...well Roberts wasn't made Chief Justice because of his exemplary judicial career – think back to 2004 and Florida, and which judge ruled the electoral votes for Bush??? Hmmmmm, I believe his name was Roberts!
    Supreme Court judges are bought too!!!

    February 1, 2013 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  5. End the two parties

    Folks the root cause of this comes down to campaign finance laws.
    The people rights for fair representation are being undermined by large campaign donators who pick and choose who will be our representatives. The two major parties pick and finance who they wish to run for office to represent you. Along with that the two major parties allow anyone or any business to contribute an unlimited amount of money to promote your representative's election.
    Why should a billionaire from one state have the right to give money to a candidate in another state? The same goes for corporations, unions, special interest groups, PACs and lobbyists, why should they be allowed to pick and finance your elected representation when they do not even live in your community?
    "We the People" need to have the power of our votes count again without the influence of the wealthy, special interests, PACs, unions and corporate money that cheats the voters of having a true choice.
    I say that NO money can come from anyone other than individuals who live within the voter district the candidate wishes to represent. And those donations need to be restricted to a set maximum level so Billionaires do not pick and choose the winners.

    February 1, 2013 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  6. Tony

    This disgusts me, considering that 2 million people will die from starvation this year. We shouldn't think of this as the 7 billion dollar campaign, we should think of it as the 3400 dollars per starvation death campaign. To see this much money spent over bickering about tax rates and how many bullets a clip can hold while considering that it could have been used to END starvation really makes me wonder. But hey, this is America. Capitalism at all cost.

    February 1, 2013 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  7. Evergreen

    So much money spent to mis-inform rather than to inform the voter.

    February 1, 2013 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  8. SensibleModerate

    Good – $7B injected into the economy probably did us all some good (its not like the money wasn't spent)
    Bad – $7B could have gone to more productive things (education, health, job creation, energy independence, etc.)
    IMHO I would rather the money be spent on better things for America, but after Citizens United I don't know how we can return the political system to the old way (limiting campaigns and PACs). Good luck to US all!

    February 1, 2013 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  9. Woman In California

    I guess this "bad" economy republicans claim is all President Obama's fault is really not that 'bad' at all.

    February 1, 2013 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  10. Name lynn

    whose whose when it comes to campaigns, talk talk what is really going on. When Obama start campaigning money came from everywhere, now because hes black people strarting about how the rich people was helping obama. No one said nothing about the white mens campaigning for president. Now what about campaign money again.

    February 1, 2013 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  11. Tom

    $7 billlion is peanuts... government borrows more than this every two DAYS to fund the welfare state. Government waste, fraud and abuse? Estimated at hundreds of billions each and every year. Where is the outrage for all THAT money? At least the $7 billion were voluntary donations, not force taking of money to be squandered.

    February 1, 2013 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  12. Randy, San Francisco

    The final take over of our political system by Big Money happened when the US Supreme Court ruled that corporations were people.

    February 1, 2013 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  13. Rudy NYC

    The speed of the economic recovery has stalled over the last tow years, ever since the Tea Party took over the House of Representatives. Month to month jobs growth, stalled. Gross Domestic Product, stalled. Unemployment improvements, slowed and now stalled.

    February 1, 2013 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  14. Carlin123

    Yea lets get big money out of government. Right after I buy the White House for 7 billion dollars.
    Oh and lets not forget the congress. I own them too. Republicans or Democrats it doesn't matter, I own em all.

    February 1, 2013 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  15. callmecrazy

    Queue Karl Rove's second meltdown.

    February 1, 2013 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  16. lolo

    I am so glad that the American people woke up in time for the presidential election. We knew that all those rich fat cats were blowing big money to get their puppet Romney elected, but they failed. We showed them LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    February 1, 2013 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  17. just askin

    Randy, San Francisco
    The final take over of our political system by Big Money happened when the US Supreme Court ruled that corporations were people.
    ----

    government taxes them like people, government regulates them like people, they have interests just like people, why should they be barred from participating in our democracy? unions are corporations too. do you want to silence them as well?

    February 1, 2013 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  18. Donna

    Rudy NYC
    The speed of the economic recovery has stalled over the last tow years, ever since the Tea Party took over the House of Representatives. Month to month jobs growth, stalled. Gross Domestic Product, stalled. Unemployment improvements, slowed and now stalled.
    --

    And now for the truth... There was NO recovery UNTIL the Republicans took control of the House. Two years and nothing but record unemployment from 2009-2010. Unfortunately the Democrats refsue to stop spending, borrowing and taxing. And now the disaster known as Obamacare is becoming a reailty and we are just now starting to realize how big of a disaster it is and will be. Even the unions are up in arms about it. Good, they pushed for it and deserve what they get.

    February 1, 2013 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  19. ABDELHAMID 'SAM' IBRAHIM SAMARA

    USA 1 ST G7 RICH WEALTHY = PRESIDENT CANDIDATES SAME LEVEL = SMART + PROFESSIONAL USA 4-7-1776 = Storytelling (Promote Value: Tell + Enact, Inspire: Resilience +Fill with Facts + Ideas) +Ambassadorship (Capitalise on Realistic & Potential Fit + Resonance & Secure Presence)

    ABDELHAMID 'SAM' IBRAHIM SAMARA (JR)
    KALMAR & BOS ATM @ Sam Consulting
    C-Level Global Strategic Business and Process Development

    ABDELHAMID 'SAM' IBRAHIM SAMARA (JR)
    KALMAR & BOS ATM @ Sam Consulting
    C-Level Global Strategic Business and Process Development

    February 1, 2013 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  20. Rudy NYC

    Randy, San Francisco wrote:

    The final take over of our political system by Big Money happened when the US Supreme Court ruled that corporations were people.
    -------------------
    Not yet. Citizen's United merely set the stage for the second half. The real battle is going to be when these "people" start arguing for the right to vote. Mark my words, you will hear cries of "taxation without representation". The net result is that the wealthy will have the power of multiple votes through absentee ballots or some other mechanism.

    February 1, 2013 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  21. curious

    This waste of money was spent to promote a claim of a financially responsible politian. Who actally received the money?

    February 1, 2013 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  22. Rudy NYC

    Donna wrote:

    And now for the truth... There was NO recovery UNTIL the Republicans took control of the House. Two years and nothing but record unemployment from 2009-2010. Unfortunately the Democrats refsue to stop spending, borrowing and taxing.
    -------------------–
    Excuse me, Bush's 20 month long recession didn't officially end until mid 2009. Month to month jobs growth went from a negative 700,000 in January 2009 to less than 100,000 in positive growth by December 2009. So you wish to claim credit for the recovery for the past two years. Go ahead. Doing so totally contradicts your "Obama's economic destruction" narrative, but go right ahead. It's par for the course.

    I also recall a severe dip in unemployment and GDP occurring in spring of 2011, which conservatives were quick to blame on Democrats. Never mind the fact that during April and May of that year House Republicans were playing games with a Continuing Resolution, threatening to shut down the government. Republicans have demanded transparancy and you've done an excellent job of providing it. Congratulations. Watch out for that dust bin.

    February 1, 2013 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  23. just askin

    so all the lefties complaining about all the money in politics now didn't send money to obama last year? obama is the one that declined government election funding in 2008 after he said he would take it. and then in 2012 said he wanted to raise a record 1 billion dollars. so now why all the outrage about money in elections by the lefties? did the left just buy the election?

    February 1, 2013 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  24. EK

    7 billion – that is an awful lot of money and it doesn't even include the cost of all the stuff Obama gave away in exchange for votes. That's okay, our kids will be paying for it for the rest of their lives.

    February 1, 2013 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  25. On StreetWise

    Spend on 7-Billions Dollars of "Free Speech Money" to control/influence the media and mis-inform our low IQ electorate and still it wouldn't flip the election to Mittens.... Maybe the people are really starting to wake up. Here comes the mid-term elections to clean out the rest of the Tea/GOP!

    February 1, 2013 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
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