A milestone in the intersection of money and politics was reached last month: more than $1 billion has been donated to candidates running for the White House.
The total, first reported by the Center for Responsive Politics, includes money that some candidates (Hillary Clinton, Mitt Romney) gave to their own campaign. Nevertheless, added up, the $1,001,204,469 in cash offered to the presidential aspirants represents a historic amount of loot. In 2004, the total amount given topped out at $884 million. In 2000, it was $528 million.
But just how significant is the current haul? While the total represents more money than the GDP of at least 23 countries, it is a pittance compared to the amount spent by companies like, say, McDonald's on corporate advertising.
"It is the first time the candidates themselves have raised more than a billion and we are not into the general election," said CRP's Massie Ritsch. "On the one hand it is more money than anyone really imagined presidential candidates could raise or think they needed. On the other hand Americans will spend more money eating out in restaurants today than the candidates have raised so far."
Other watershed marks have been reached in the world of political financing. Sen. Barack Obama currently has raised more than $287 million for his campaign, besting the previous primary total of George W. Bush in 2004: $269.6 million. Meanwhile, John McCain passed the $100 million threshold, making this election the first time that four candidates (Obama, Clinton, Romney, McCain) have hit that mark.
And yet, the role of cash in this election seems likely only to grow greater, as Obama has announced that he will become the first candidate since Watergate to forgo public funding in the general election. How much money, exactly, did the Senator pass up? According to Ritsch, with public funds Obama would have only been able to spend $1.2 million dollars a day - a "restriction" he no longer will have to contend with. Seem unreasonable? "Here's how much a few major corporations spend per day on advertising alone, based on a recent article in the Washington Post," noted the Center.
* Procter and Gamble: $13.4 million
* AT&T: $9.15 million
* Ford: $7 million
* Johnson & Johnson: $6.27 million