Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Money in Politics

The elections are over. President Obama remains in office. As in earlier years, but more intensely than ever, the media emphasized the power of money, particularly of independent groups, such as political action committees (PACs) active on behalf of candidates but at a distance: the campaigns could not influence them.

The New York Times featured a page (link) yesterday showing total spending by such independent organizations as of November 6, 2012. The listing featured 35 Republican and 10 Democratic groups. I show the results in the following graph:

I look at this and say to myself, “If money could buy elections, the Republicans should have swept the field.”

But the picture is mixed when we include funds actually raised by each campaign combined with funds contributed by the two party committees, the Democratic and Republican National Committees (link). Those in the following tabulation (in millions of dollars):

Funds raised by the candidates
Party Committee

Here Obama had more money than Romney, although the difference between them isn’t very large. Money obviously plays its role, but would not seem to be conclusive. What this tells me is that my deeply-held doubts about the predictable powers of advertising need not be reexamined.


  1. This outcome is somewhat... reassuring. You can't just buy it! The rejection of all six of the proposals on the Michigan State ballots was rather interesting in this regard, didn't you think?

  2. Rare the election, Monique, when I don't feel reassured. The passions leading up to the day distort everything, but ON election day my opinion of ordinary humanity rises again. Curiously I had the same feelings after serving on a jury many years ago. When people are serious they rise to the occasion, no matter which party they vote for...