Dave Gilson

Senior Editor

San Francisco native, word wrangler, data cruncher, chart drawer, pun maker. Recent areas of interest: campaign finance, income inequality, prison riots.

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Dave Gilson has worked at Mother Jones since 2003. Previously, he worked for the San Francisco Bay Guardian, the Center for Investigative Reporting, and the Northern California bureau of the New York Times.

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The Crazy Cost of Becoming President, From Lincoln to Obama

| Mon Feb. 20, 2012 4:00 AM PST

Barack Obama spent $730 million getting to the White House in 2008—twice as much as George W. Bush spent 4 years earlier and more than 260 times what Abraham Lincoln spent in his first election (as measured in 2011 dollars). Looking at the total costs of presidential elections over the past 150 years, it would seem that the White House is the ultimate recession-proof commodity:

So is the White House overpriced? Depends on what you're comparing it against. The increase in campaign costs (measured in real dollars) significantly outpaced the price of gold's rise over the 20th century. Yet between 1908 and 2008, real campaign costs did not keep up with real GDP growth.*

We'll see if these trends hold; 2012 could beat all records for campaign spending—and that's not counting super-PAC money.

Note: Election costs include all major candidates' spending and cost of primaries, when known; they do not include outside spending.

Sources: Center for Responsive Politics (election costs 1976-2008); George Thayer, Who Shakes the Money Tree?: American campaign financing practices from 1789 to the present (election costs 1860-1972); Bureau of Labor Statistics (CPI); Measuring Worth (pre-1913 CPI equivalents; GDP 1908-2008); World Gold Council (gold prices)

* This section and the chart beneath it previously compared real election costs with the inflation rate. To avoid confusion, it has been updated to compare real election costs with real GDP growth.

Seriously, What Does Sheldon Adelson Want From Gingrich?

| Fri Feb. 17, 2012 3:25 PM PST
Sheldon Adelson: What's another $10 million among friends?

Ho hum. Another day, another $10 million donation from casino mogul Sheldon Adelson to bail out Newt Gingrich. Aldelson and his wife, you'll recall, have already dropped $10 million on the pro-Gingrich super-PAC Winning Our Future. The latest anticipated infusion of cash could help Gingrich's campaign, which is nearly busted, stay in the game a bit longer. Yet assuming that the conventional wisdom that Newt is more likely to reanimate dinosaurs on the moon than win the nomination is true, why is Adelson still showing so much love for him?

A few theories:

1. It's all about Israel. Adelson is an ardent supporter of Israel, and more specifically, hawkish Israeli politicians such as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Adelson owns a pro-Netanyahu Israeli newspaper and has underwritten trips to Israel for members of Congress to drum up support for the country. Gingrich has told The Hill that Israel is Adelson's motivating concern: "Sheldon's primary driving source is the survival of the United States and Israel in the face of an Iranian nuclear weapon."

Gingrich and Adelson appear to see perfectly eye to eye on Israel. As MoJo's Adam Serwer notes, "Adelson's donation to Gingrich likely has something to do with their shared anti-Palestinian views, namely the notion that Palestinian national identity is 'invented.'" And Gingrich has said that his first executive order would be to move the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which would be a de facto recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Adelson has been pushing for the embassy move for years; he first mentioned it to Gingrich when he was still House speaker.

Quiz: Baby Got PAC

| Thu Feb. 16, 2012 4:00 AM PST

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