Special Report
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Campaign Finance
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campaign finance
Part 1: Big Money
Part 2: The Issues
Part 3: Past Reforms
Part 4: Soft Money
Part 5: Allegations
Part 6: Legislation
Overview, Part 1:
Big Money – The Cost of Winning

The amount of money needed to win a federal election these days – most notably, the presidency – is enormous. The Clinton and Dole campaigns spent about $232 million in the 1996 campaign cycle – supplemented by about $69 million in "issue ads" paid for by the Republican and Democratic national committees. Across the country, Election '96 cost about $2.7 billion, the costliest ever.

Average Cost of Winning a Seat in Congress, 1996

Senate $3,765,000
House $675,000
Source: Federal Election Commission
It takes money to pay a campaign staff and buy materials. It takes money for a campaign to be taken seriously by the press. It even takes money to raise more money.

Perhaps more than anything, it takes an awful lot of money to buy television and radio ads – which are virtually mandatory for any national political campaign and for many local and statewide ones as well.

From the Post
In Presidential Race, TV Ads Were Biggest '96 Cost by Far, March 31, 1997
For example, a massive television advertising blitz that started in October 1995 greatly contributed to the Clinton reelection victory by retuning his image and drowning out any competing message. It didn't come cheap. The ads – which were paid for by the Democratic National Committee, not by the Clinton/Gore campaign – cost about $44 million.

In congressional campaigns, the amounts are smaller, but money generally plays a huge role. Big coffers scare away challengers; advertising can swing races. As a result, members of Congress spend a lot of time and energy – and money – raising funds for their next election.


© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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