There is no disputing it: Barack Obama and his campaign juggernaut are the kings of political fundraising.
Obama for America, the president’s own campaign, raked in $1.4 billion in campaign donations during his two bids for the White House, according to the Huffington Post‘s Paul Blumenthal, who crunched the numbers. That $1.4 billion tally—which does not include spending by the Democratic National Committee or the other groups that backed the president—is the biggest presidential haul in history.
During the 2012 campaign cycle, when you include Obama’s campaign and the Democratic groups backing him, Obama and his allies topped GOP nominee Mitt Romney and his GOP backers in the fundraising fight. Team Obama banked $1.2 billion for the 2012 campaign cycle, making the president the first billion-dollar candidate in history; Team Romney pocketed $923 million. By comparison, Sen. John McCain, the GOP’s 2008 presidential nominee, raised a little more than a third of that, $368.1 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
McCain’s haul was so small compared to Romney’s because the Arizona senator accepted taxpayer-provided public funding in 2008. Romney opted out. As did Obama during both of his campaigns. Which leads to one of the big takeaways from the 2012 campaign season: Parsing the spending and fundraising tallies for 2012, it’s obvious that the current public financing system—funded by taxpayers, capping the amount of money presidential candidates can raise and spend—is horribly outdated and badly in need of a reboot. The way it works now, it’s dead as dust.
Obama is the first billion-dollar presidential candidate. But until public financing gets a facelift, he’s unlikely to be the last.