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World

2020 U.S Presidential Election shatters spending records, with $11 billion haul

  • As the United States enters yet another enormously divisive and politically heated Presidential Election, in the midst of the (still-raging) COVID-19 pandemic, the total cost of the 2020 Election has obliterated any previous spending records in the past, amounting to nearly $11 billion.
Published October 6, 2020
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As the United States enters yet another enormously divisive and politically heated Presidential Election, in the midst of the (still-raging) COVID-19 pandemic, the total cost of the 2020 Election has obliterated any previous spending records in the past, amounting to nearly $11 billion - 50% higher than the previous record holder in the 2016 Election, according to a report by the Center for Responsive Politics.

According to Sheila Krumholz, Executive Director of the Center for Responsive Politics, “this is already the most expensive Presidential Election in history and there are still months of election spending to account for”, raising the question of whether this is “the new normal of future elections”.

This $11 billion figure was reached by estimating the total amount of spending that has taken place till this stage, and using historical data from previous election cycles to determine how much funding can be anticipated - however, these estimates could likely be surpassed, as the latter stages of the electoral campaign can attract a large influx of funding within a short span. For example, Democratic nominee Joe Biden reportedly raised $10 million dollars in the immediate aftermath of the first Presidential debate, while the Democratic fundraising firm ActBlue raised $300 million since the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The report mentions that while President Trump began raising finances for his re-election campaign well into the early days of his presidency, Presidential hopeful Joe Biden is riding on a wave of enthusiasm from Democratic donors, helping his campaign gather a $531 million haul in simply a matter of months, surpassing the Trump campaign’s total. It can also be observed from the report that Democrats are enjoying a massive spending advantage over Republicans, accounting for 54 percent of total spending, as compared to 39 percent for Republicans. Furthermore, Democrats are also getting more support from external spending groups (including PACs and Super PACs) that may raise massive sums of money from wealthy donors, with liberal groups having spent $651 million as compared to $556 million by conservative groups.

While the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic changed spending patterns in Presidential campaigns, with less being spent in travel and events, more money has been shelled out on digital media campaigning - raising concerns about the efficacy of these campaigns, and the potential for yet another election driven by online misinformation.

The United States’ democratic process has often been hampered by the massive influx of corporate money (or "dark money") through PACs and Super PACs into every step of the electoral ladder, ranging from local gubernatorial races to the Senate and even the White House. This has often raised a serious concern as to how much of an impact this can have on policy making and legislations - especially when it comes to policies being more favourable to donors and large corporations.

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