On the last hundred meters of the campaign, the two White House candidates, Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden, no longer take into account the money spent on advertising, rallies and travel around the country. In fact, almost without restrictions, the amounts engaged in American political campaigns are, from one election to another, in perpetual increase. And this despite the fact that money does not always guarantee victory, as a former suitor in the Oval Office, billionaire Michael Bloomberg, realized a few months ago.
France TV Info explains why the current election campaign across the Atlantic has surpassed all spending records.
The amounts evoked
The United States has a peculiarity in terms of elections, namely the overlapping of several election campaigns. The November 3 elections are not only about the White House, but also about the renewal of deputies and a third of senators. In parallel with these changes at the federal level, many states hold local elections, from referendums, to elections of governors and judges, etc.
The Center for Responsive Politics, a research group on US policy funding, estimates the amount spent on the current campaign at nearly $ 11 billion, including the primary election phase. In 2016, US election candidates spent $ 6.5 billion, which was already a record.
According to data from October 14, 2020, $ 3.5 billion was spent only on the presidential campaign, money that came largely from fundraisers. If Biden raised $ 952 million, Trump managed to raise $ 601 million.
Who spent the most?
The largest spender is not present in the final phase. This is Michael Bloomberg, the former Democratic mayor of New York. In just a few weeks of the campaign, the billionaire spent more than $ 1.1 billion. It is the most expensive political promotion in history. After some inconclusive results, he withdrew in favor of Joe Biden. The latter ranks second in terms of campaign spending, reaching $ 790 million. Donald Trump is in third place, with 565 million dollars. Fourth on this list is billionaire Tom Steyer, who launched into the Democrats’ race in July 2019 and retired in less than eight months of the campaign, enough time to spend $ 352 million, much of his personal fortune. .
Where do the millions of dollars come from?
Unlike other countries, the amounts involved in US election campaigns are not capped. With one exception, namely public money. In this case, the expenses cannot exceed 84 million dollars.
Most of the money comes from donations from supporters and local party committees present in each state.
In addition to the main committee, there are also political action committees (CAPs), whose very mission is to raise funds. They defend a cause rather than a party, such as the rights of LGBT people or the carrying of weapons.
White House contenders also benefit from indirect support: external committees. Since 2010, national and foreign companies can finance election campaigns in the name of freedom of expression, provided they do not donate directly to candidates, hence the notion of “external committee”. Two types of structures allow it: Super PACs and associations.
Super PACs are a larger version of PACs. American law does not allow them to coordinate with a party or a candidate. They focus on favorable or unfavorable commercials, without making a direct reference to the preferred candidate. More than $ 275 million has been spent to fund anti-Trump campaigns.
Candidates also have the right to borrow money or put their personal wealth at stake, which privileged Michael Bloomberg.
How are expenses monitored?
Theoretically, they are overseen by the Federal Electoral Commission (FEC), set up in 1974. Its six members, nominated by the country’s president and approved by the Senate, are responsible for verifying the amount of money received by candidates and how to spend it.
In practice, “the FEC has never worked,” Professor François Vergniolle de Chantal told France TV Infor. “With an even number of members, it always has three Republicans and three Democrats who hold on to their positions,” he said.
As for this campaign, the Commission has been technically unemployed since July 2020, as it needs three more members. Donald Trump did not come up with the right proposals.
The Campaign Legal Center, an association that specializes in overseeing campaign spending, has filed a lawsuit against Trump on the commission. She accuses the 45th American president of laundering $ 170 million. In the absence of the required quorum, the file is kept in a drawer, as are 350 others related to the November 3 campaign.