Cost of 2016 Presidential Race Passes $1 BILLION

Donald Trump and Ted Cruz take part in the GOP debate on March 10, 2016, in Coral Gables, Fla. (Photo: Joe Raedle, Getty Images)
Donald Trump and Ted Cruz take part in the GOP debate on March 10, 2016, in Coral Gables, Fla. (Photo: Joe Raedle, Getty Images)

Fundraising in the presidential contest has zoomed past the $1 billion mark, fueled by the dozens of super-wealthy Americans bankrolling super PACs that have acted as shadow campaigns for White House contenders.

Presidential candidates and the super PACs closely aligned with them had raised a little more than $1 billion through the end of February, newly released campaign reports show. By comparison, the presidential fundraising by candidates and their super PACs had hit $402.7 million at this point in the 2012 election, according to data compiled by the non-partisan Campaign Finance Institute.

The price tag of the White House contest puts it roughly on par with the value of Major League Baseball’s Chicago White Sox, which Forbes this week pegged as worth $1.05 billion, but it’s far less than the nearly $7 billion American consumers spent last year to celebrate Halloween.

New figures show that super PACs and their super-wealthy patrons are footing more of the cost of running for the presidency. Super PACs now account for nearly 40% of all presidential fundraising, up from about 22% at this point four years ago.

Money flowing directly to candidates has dropped.

In 2008, the last election in which neither a sitting president nor vice president sought the White House, candidates had raised $812 million at this point in the campaign, the institute’s data show. Super PACs, authorized by a pair of federal court rulings in 2010, did not exist during the 2008 campaign.

Eight years later, the nearly two dozen men and women who have run for the presidency in 2016 had collected far less: $623.8 million. That reflects, in part, the difference in the kinds of candidates running this year, said Michael Malbin, executive director of the Campaign Finance Institute.

“When you have so many candidates running on disaffection with the establishment, it doesn’t make it easy to go the establishment and raise money,” he said.

The 2008 field included a former vice presidential nominee (Democrat John Edwards), a dozen current or former members of Congress and two ex-governors, many of whom drew support from their party’s traditional big donors.

In 2016, the GOP race is led by a billionaire political novice, Donald Trump, and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a first-term senator who rails often against the “Washington cartel.” Meanwhile, Sen. Bernie Sanders, a billionaire-bashing Vermonter seeking the Democratic nomination, outraised the entire presidential field last month, fueled by small online donations.

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SOURCE: Fredreka Schouten
USA TODAY