Campaigning: Lots of money over a little time

Setheesh Moturi

Two hundred and seventy-two days remain until Election Day. The better part of our year stands between the most recent caucus meeting and the final date when our nation will choose its next leader. From the start of campaign season to October of last year, reports candidates and their sponsors have spent over $600 million.

Americans, and their favorite news stations, seem to have an obsession with campaign season—the debates, commercials, the quotable moments.

While this clamor builds around the elections, policies and problems are still being wrestled with in D.C. These are big policies such as equal pay for women, the ever-present war on drugs and immigration laws—all currently under debate with little media coverage. Issues we, as young Americans, should care more about than Mr. Trump’s most recent tirade.

For years in American history, the elections have been a time to restart, remember and move forward. However, it’s entirely possible that these sentiments are being abused by politicians and the people who fund them. As campaign seasons have started earlier and earlier, candidates and their corporate supporters have had more time to spend more money than ever before. Brian Palmer, a writer for Slate, explains that The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision to allow unions and corporations to spend without limit has caused the economy to stagnate, if not decline.

Months of tedious planning and voter research goes into any campaign. At this juncture, candidacy becomes a money game, due to the time and resources necessary for the research to occur. Much of the research is done to figure out how a candidate may represent him/herself in a state that may not agree with all of their policies. Depending on the importance of certain states, candidates will determine how much campaigning— money—they will put into it.

For many candidates, Iowa is seen as the state to win early on. This is because Iowa is the first state to hold its voting caucuses, in which voters count their ticket as a party and not as individuals. Though it's no more than a tradition, many feel that the Iowa caucuses can determine the future of the race, regardless of standing prior to the vote. This is why, according to, roughly $52.8 million was spent campaigning in Iowa alone.

Though the Iowa caucuses don't represent the whole of the United States, Mark Barabak, an LA Times political writer, explained that “a candidate seen as performing better than expected can be judged a winner, while a candidate who performs worse than anticipated may be deemed a loser.” For whatever reason, this trend has typically been true. And, for that reason, campaign season ramps up, instead of winding down during voting season.

Again, this translates to more money being spent, whether to recover a failed caucus or to build on success.

The “trail of tears” to the presidency is not nearly as long, and in turn is neither as expensive, in many other countries. Mexico, France and Japan all impose campaign limitations on politicians. Even in Britain, according to a New York Times article, the queen did not dissolve parliament until 38 days before the election date. Shorter systems aren't always the answer, however, according to Danielle Kurtzleben. The NPR writer shows that, in Mexico, far too much money still goes into campaigning. So much, in fact, that parties “simply run ads before it's legal, because they think it's worth the fine.” Based on the high standard of moral fiber the American media stands on however, that is highly unlikely here, right?

No matter how you dice it, with 272 days left until Election Day this November, countless millions, perhaps billions, will be spent campaigning and convincing voters. This money will not stimulate the economy (i.e. it will not make anything cheaper). It only serves the whims of the already wealthy.

Setheesh is a sophomore mathematics and religious education major.