The 2012 Election’s Price Tag: $7 Billion

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The final campaign filings are in, and we can now put a price tag on the 2012 elections: $7 billion.

That’s how much candidates, parties, PACs, super-PACs, and politically active nonprofits spent last year to influence races up and down the ballot. As Politico reported, Ellen Weintraub, the chairwoman of the Federal Election Commission, announced the $7 billion figure this week. Candidates spent the bulk of the 2012 total, at $3.2 billion, while parties spent $2 billion and outside groups $2.1 billion.

The FEC’s $7 billion figure is about a billion dollars more than what transparency groups had projected for 2012. It’s the most money ever spent during one election cycle in US history, a cycle in which Barack Obama became the first $1 billion candidate, both Obama and Romney rejected public financing, and outside spending soared to levels never before seen in the post-Watergate era.

Here’s more from Politico on 2012’s $7 billion price tag:

“It’s obviously only an estimate,” Weintraub told Politico. “It’s really hard to come up with ‘the number.'” And Weintraub said future elections could see even more spending.

“It’s a lot of money. Every presidential election is the most expensive ever. Elections don’t get cheaper,” she added. Spending in the first post-Citizens United presidential election exploded as the FEC remained gridlocked on critical issues. Three years after the Supreme Court ruling that changed the campaign finance system, the FEC has yet to change its regulations to address the decision.

The agency also found that despite the proliferation of super PACs, traditional political action committees outspent the new breed. Of the total spending by outside committees, $1.2 billion was spent by traditional PACs and $950 million was spent by super PACs.

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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