Typical Campaign Expenses


Election-year budget figures can seem absolutely mind-boggling to the average American voter. The thought of billion-dollar campaigns, especially during times of economic downturn, seems decadent and even insulting to some voters. But where does this money go? Why are presidential campaigns so expensive, and what do campaigns possibly do with all that money? Well, let’s have a look.

An American presidential election is, cycle after cycle, the biggest, most expensive popularity contest in the history of the world. During a contemporary presidential race, it is common for both candidates to briefly outpace Fortune 500 companies in their intake and outflow of funds. So where does it all go?

The biggest slice of the pie goes into advertising, and a big chunk of this budget goes into television advertising, which is notoriously expensive (think Super Bowl). In its 2012 bid, the Obama campaign spent about $500 million on advertising alone. Mitt Romney spent a few hundred million less but by no means a conservative amount by ordinary mortal standards. Both candidates spent about 75% of their total budgets on advertising.

Another major campaign expense is staff. Though there are many volunteers involved in a presidential campaign, there are vast numbers of consultants, strategists, marketers, pollsters, operatives, event planners and every other conceivably advantageous position that campaign managers can dream up. Distribute this staff around all 50 states, and the numbers get pretty big, even if the pay is modest, which it often is not.

Along with a large staff come the costs of travel, lodging and field offices to house this nationwide army of staffers. Time constraints usually mean constant plane travel, and these planes are almost always chartered affairs with dedicated pilots. Consider the cost of a year and a half of air travel, lodging, meals, vehicles, offices and utilities. Just imagine the cost of coffee for all those people.

Finally, after the ads are developed and bought, the staff is fed, housed and moved about, and the coffee cups are full, there is still the cost of events and collateral materials, yard signs, constant professional polling, focus groups and every other form of market research. It’s a major production that requires constant attention. So, when you consider the role of money in politics, consider where the money is actually going. Day-to-day campaign overhead can be absolutely staggering, and without funds in the coffers every morning, a campaign won’t make it through the night.

If you are involved in a campaign, take the steps to keep the money flowing by using Raise The Money to process your contributions. No process is faster or more secure for keeping your donations moving and your funds available when you need them. Like it or not, decades of data show a clear trend. Donkey or Elephant, when it’s time to run a campaign, everyone eats like a horse.