The 2012 political campaign season is finally over, but it has left in its wake a dubious legacy of being the most expensive election ever. According to a report from the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, the price tag for the campaigns adds up to a historic $6 billion – nearly $700 million more than was spent in 2008.
A large portion of the money went towards advertising, resulting in over one million campaign ads playing between June 1 and Oct. 29, according to the Wesleyan Media Project, another all-time record.
What else could $6 billion buy you? To put that huge number in perspective, the amount spent on campaigning for the 2012 election could buy: 857,142,857 lunches at the Commons (at $7 each), or enough for each current Drew student to eat three meals a day for the next 489 years.
Almost 273 million round-trip train tickets between Madison and Penn Station, 30 million Xbox 360s and 27,051 new houses at the median national price of $221,800. That money can also buy 4 billion AA batteries, 1.7 billion gallons of gas or 60 Boeing 737 airplanes. Six billion dollars could also pay for tuition, room, board and fees for every Drew student for the next 67 years.
Much of the radical increase in spending in this past election can be attributed to the changes in campaign fundraising that took place after the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision.
The court’s ruling allowed so-called “Super PACs” to collect unlimited amounts of money towards a campaign from both corporations and anonymous donors.
These large-scale contributors donated a large amount of cash to Governor Mitt Romney’s campaign. This includes over $10 million from billionaire Sheldon Adelson and $2.5 million from various Koch Brothers organizations. President Barack Obama repeated his 2008 strategy of using a network of over four million smaller scale donors (mostly through the internet) to fund his own campaign.
This election was also the first in which both candidates refused federal matching funds for their campaigns.
When asked what they would do with a $6 billion windfall, several Drew students gave interesting answers. “I would probably own one of my favorite hotels in Hawaii, and live there,” said Vanessa Gibbs (’16). Samantha Weckesser (’15) said that she would emulate Bill Gates and “donate half of it.” Pawel Buczek (’14) gave an equally philanthropic answer. After paying for college loans and house, he responded “I would give some of it to my friends and family.” Valerie Drake (’15) said she would “probably just go out and buy a house” with $6 billion as well as paying “for my college, and then my boyfriend’s college educations.” “I would buy the New York Yankees and then give 15 percent of what I have to charity. ‘Then I would open a scholarship fund for minority students,” said Joel Chapman (’14).
Eve Sanoussi (’14) added, “I would donate 50 percent to education towards funding books, hiring good professors, and funding sports. Then I would donate the rest to charities like the Red Cross and St. Jude’s. And if there was any left, I’d make my own company that supplies sustainable foods.”