Campaign Trail

How campaign spending has changed since 2008

Steve Chiotakis Jan 12, 2012

Steve Chiotakis: Today we found out President Obama and the Democrats raised $68 million in the last quarter of 2011, as the president seeks re-election. But this money is a bit… different.

James Thurber heads up the Center for Congressional & Presidential Studies at the American University in Washington. Professor, thanks for being here.

James Thurber: Good to be here.

Chiotakis: I know the president talked a lot about raising money from small donors four years ago. Where’s this money coming from? Have his donors changed?

Thurber: Well is goal is a billion dollars; he had $750 million last time. His goal is to have small contributors — it’s about 40 percent of the people contributing so far, so he’s really meeting that goal, so far.

Chiotakis: I want to talk about the Supreme Court ruling on campaign finance, which essentially lets — sort of opened the floodgates of all kinds of donations to come in politically. How much of a roll has that played?

Thurber: Citizens United was the decision and it allows for so-called super PACS — which allows for unlimited contributions, and you really don’t know who the contributors are until after the event — is playing a major role in the Republican primaries. It’ll play a major role in the general election.

Chiotakis: Yeah, are the Democrats using the same kind of methods? Are super PACS a big part of that race as well?

Thurber: Super PACS have been started for the Democrats but there’s been a 2 to 1 expenditure of money from super PACS verses candidates so far in the Republican primaries. It will continue and both Democrats and Republicans will use it, no matter what the president says about big money and campaigns.

Chiotakis: James Thurber from the American University. Professor, thanks.

Thurber: Yes, thank you.

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