2012 Presidential Election
2:04 pm
Mon November 5, 2012

The 2012 Elections Cost $6 Billion. Here’s What You Could Do With That Money

Here’s an eye-opening number: The total spending by candidates, political parties and Super PACs on this year’s presidential and congressional elections will be just shy of $6 billion. 

So say money-in-politics watchdogs The Center for Responsive Politics. A report on its OpenSecrets blog predicts combined spending for the 2012 elections is on track to exceed its already astronomical prediction of $5.8 billion.

While the CRP notes that direct spending on the presidential election is actually down slightly from 2008 (going from $2.8 million last cycle to an estimated $2.6 million), spending by congressional candidates is up, as is the wave of Super PAC spending and advocacy advertisements funded in the wake of the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision allowing corporate contributions.

“What remains unknown – and may never fully be accounted for – is how much money secretive ‘shadow money’ organizations spent, with some investing massive sums on ads, but also on unreported and purportedly ‘non-political’ activities, as the election neared,” the CRP writes.

Six billion dollars is obviously a staggering – but somewhat intangible – figure. So to give a sense of its enormity, KUT News compiled a list of what $6 billion dollars will buy you:

  • Just under $20 for every person currently living in the United States. 
  • A brand new Toyota Corolla—which has a retail price of $16,230 for a basic model—for everyone in Corpus Christi.
  • With average student loan debt now at $26,500, you could pay off the student loans of 226,415 people.  Or you could pay all currently enrolled public school students in Austin and San Antonio ISDs to get an undergraduate degree in engineering at the University of Texas. 
  • The 2013 fiscal year budgets for Austin ($3.1 billion) and San Antonio ($2.3 billion).
  • You could pay off the national debt of Albania, Bolivia, Cambodia, Gabon, Moldova or Mongolia.  Or you could pay off the combined national debts of Afghanistan, Barbados, Botswana, the British Virgin Islands, Greenland and Sierra Leone. 

The CRP writes that the mounting cost of elections creates a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts: "In reaction, candidates feel pressure to raise more funds," Bob Biersack, senior fellow at the CRP, says in a statement. "Everybody reacts to this new environment by getting as much money as they can."

Do you think much can be done to remove money from politics? Leave us a comment and let us know what you think.