Election for Sale: How Unlimited Independent Expenditures and the Abandonment of Public Funding Has Led to Privatized Presidential Elections
Since the passage of the Federal Election Campaign Act Amendments of 1974 (FECA) up until the most recent election in 2012, presidential campaign funds have risen over five hundred percent. While money has always been an essential and critical part of any political campaign, this rise has been drastic and continues to increase at a higher rate with every election cycle, even when the numbers are adjusted for inflation. The purpose of this paper is to examine this continuous increase in cost of presidential campaigns and to analyze the different pieces that have contributed to this rise. The main pieces include two Supreme Court cases: Buckley v. Valeo and Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission, the rise and fall of federally regulated public funding and the various pieces of a presidential campaign that have considerably higher ticket prices with each election cycle. This paper first goes through both Buckley and Citizens, describing what each Supreme Court decision did and how they effected how much money can be spent in a presidential campaign and by whom. The paper then examines each presidential election since the passage of FECA in 1974 through the last election with President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney in 2012. Each election cycle is broken down to show how much money was spent by each candidate and the Republican and Democratic National Committees, whether or not the money was received through public funds or raised privately, and subsequently the percentages of where the money was spent. While the examination of the Court cases helps to understand why so much money can be donated and contributed directly to campaigns or spent on behalf of a presidential candidate, the breakdown of where the money is spent including advertising, travel, staff salaries etc. helps to show why a presidential campaign costs over five hundred percent more today than it did forty years ago. By understanding this increase, how it was caused and where the money is going, it is more feasible to comprehend whether or not campaign finance reform should be proposed and if so, how it should be brought about.