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“Mickey Mouse” Donations Fueling 2012 Elections

There’s money in politics, even in a down economy. Despite the ongoing U.S. recession, the amount of money spent by candidates running for office hasn’t slowed down. If anything, it seems to be a race for the finish line fueled strictly by campaign contributions, with the candidate who has the most money declared the winner.

Depressing and amoral? Perhaps. Unfortunately, the seeds for spending in the 2012 races were planted in the bitter contest of 2008, where the candidates collectively spent more than $1 billion in pursuit of the Oval Office. President Obama won the race in no small part by outspending his Republican opposition at a rate of more than 2:1. While McCain spent $333 million on his campaign, Obama set new records by spending $730 million on his campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Looking back on figures like those, it is no wonder the new numbers are coming in at the top of the scales.

Republicans combined almost equal Democrats

The campaign fundraising system Obama put in place when he was running for office in 2008 seems to be alive and healthy for 2012. According to the Federal Election Commission, Obama closed out 2011 with $86.2 million dollars raised. The Republicans have raised more money overall, closing out 2011 with $90.3 million dollars raised, but that money isn’t concentrated in the hands of any one candidate.

Mitt Romney was the most effective Republican fundraiser in 2011, finishing the year with $32.2 million raised. Perry raised just over $17 million, with Ron Paul closing out the top three with $12.6 million in his war chest. Santorum closed 2011 with just $1.3 million to back his candidacy. Neither Republicans nor Democrats have accepted federal matching funds, which would put a limit on what they could spend.

The money raised in the 2012 presidential race so far already exceeds the total spent in past campaigns for the whole cycle. Monies raised in 2011 are equal to the total amount spent on the presidential races in the 1992 and 1988 cycles, more than double what was spent in 1980, and triple what was spent in 1976. With almost the whole of the 2012 season ahead, it’s a safe bet that 2012 will keep breaking records.

Broke states give most

In looking at who is paying for the 2012 presidential campaign, it quickly becomes apparent that poor states are giving more than rich states. Take California as a prime example – despite being on the brink of bankruptcy, the state has contributed nearly $20 million to presidential campaigns. Before you assume that’s movie stars plumping for Obama, note that the numbers are relatively equal for Republican and Democratic contributions.

New York, another state with financial struggles, has contributed more than $10 million to date. In fact, the entire Northeast corridor has been mighty generous to campaigners despite ugly property tax battles and wars over pension systems. Flyover country, with lower unemployment rates and healthier economies, hasn’t donated much to date. North Dakota, credited with the lowest unemployment in the nation, has contributed just $57,381 to political campaigners, with most of the money flowing to Ron Paul, according to the Federal Election Commission.

Candidates are keeping their powder dry

Of the money raised, candidates are thus far working on building up their war chests and covering basic operational expenses. Many seem to be saving their best for later in the electoral cycle, when ad spending really takes off. After the caucus and primary season, nominees in 2008 spent more than $450 million airing more than 380 campaign ads between April 3rd and November 2nd.

To ensure they have enough money for the “big push,” candidates continually fund raise. In past electoral cycles, the role of big donors was critical, but 2012 looks to be the year of the small donor. Both Obama and the Republican candidates are receiving the bulk of their monies from individuals giving $200 or less, according to the Campaign Finance Institute. This is important for fundraising throughout the cycle, as it means that fewer givers are “maxed out” at the $2,500 federal contribution limit and allows candidates to rely on ongoing support from existing donors rather than needing to recruit new givers.

However, it does allow for the fraud of the Obama campaign in 2008 when Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and a host of their friends made these relatively small contributions. In fact, donations under $200 accounted for 1/3 of candidate Obama’s war chest. Because donations under $200 don’t have to accounted for, and no names have to be given, this is a loophole that unscrupulous politicians can use to get around campaign finance rules.

Yes, the 2012 numbers for fundraising are high, and the potential for much more giving from proven and unproven donors is there. 2008 set the record at $1 billion … but what will be the ultimate price of the 2012 campaign?

©2012 Off the Grid News

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