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The Cost of Running for President

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It's no secret that it's not cheap to run a business and the cost of running one continues to rise, but what if you're in the business of running for president? 

project costingThe Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that tracks how money is being spent by politicians and political parties, estimated that running a presidential campaign can cost as much as running a medium sized business for two years.

In the past eight years, the cost of running for president has skyrocketed. In the 1996 election, presidential candidates spent $239.9 million on their campaigns; so far the candidates have spent $833.8 million in the 2008 election and there is still a few months left. Michael Toner, Federal Elections Commission Chairman, estimates the cost to reach the $1 billion mark. A far cry from the supposed $100,000 Abraham Lincoln spent in the 1860 election (combined $150,000 with Douglas) and $9.7 million (out of $19.8) Kennedy spent in 1960.

The candidates have also received more contributions than ever before. For the 2008 election, candidates have raised a total $942.1 million compared to a total $880.5 million in 2004 and $528.9 million in 2000.

Where exactly does all this money go? Just like the business world, how the candidates spend their money tells the public a great deal about them.

The Center for Responsive politics calculated how the money is spent:

Description Total
Administrative (salaries, benefits, utilities, taxes, etc) $434.47M
Media (cost of advertising and media production including tv, print, radio, and internet ads) $359.24 M
Campaign expenses (consultation, polling, promotional material, etc) $154.35 M
Fundraising (events, telemarketing, mailings, etc.) $92.84 M
Contributions (Contributions from the committee to federal and non-federal parties) $34.74 M
Other (Miscellaneous including donations and loan payments. $25.69 M

Teachable Moment estimated that it cost presidential candidates $100,000 a day to campaign during the 2004 general election (The amount Lincoln spent on his entire campaign) and includes research, travel and hotel, preparing stages, renting halls, and all the costs that come with.

According to the Federal Elections Commissions , Senator John McCain's beginning cash (the balance at the start of the campaign in the cash accounts) equaled $472,454 and as of the end of August had $36,579,532 on hand and owes a little over $76,667 in debts. Senator Barack Obama started out with $0 beginning cash and had $77,404,118 on hand as of the end of August. FEC also reported that his debts equal $469,025.

The entry fee for the election was estimated around $100 million and will only continue to rise over the years, proving that running for any elected office, especially for president, isn't for the penny-pinchers.

photo by nshepard


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