US elections are notoriously expensive and they get incrementally more expensive every four years.
There is also one underlying truth to US elections: money matters, the more the better. And often, studies have shown that candidates with the most money tend to win.
This year’s elections are expected to break records, costing almost $14 billion, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. There are 60 countries with smaller GDPs.
When the 2016 elections, between Hillary Clinton and Trump, were finally tallied the bill ran to more than $6.3 billion. At the time the race to the White House cost $2.4 billion and the Congressional elections cost a whopping $4 billion.
In 2016, Clinton raised $1.4 billion and Trump raised $957 million. That election has proved to be an exception with the losing candidate raising more money. Some analysts have suggested that Trump in the 2016 election got significantly more free media coverage that would have cost hundreds of millions to achieve, simply because he was so bombastic.
“Ten years ago, a billion-dollar presidential candidate would have been difficult to imagine,” Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, now they have quickly become the norm.
In 2012, Barack Obama raised $1.07 billion in contrast to his Republican opponent Mitt Romney who raised $992 million.
And in the 2008 presidential campaign, the difference between the candidates was even starker.
Obama raised almost $800 million whereas John McCain raised around $400 million.
A Supreme Court decision in 2012, Citizen United vs. Federal Election Commission has also unleashed a tsunami of money into US politics.
The decision basically allowed organisations supporting a particular candidate to raise unlimited money without disclosing who the donors are, so long as there is no official coordination with the campaign directly.
For instance, in the 2004 presidential race between the incumbent George W. Bush Jr and his democratic rival John Kerry, they raised $367 million and $328 million respectively.
And in the 2000 elections between George W. Bush Jr and Al Gore, neither candidate spent more than $200million each with the total cost coming to just under $400 million.
Money also plays a significant role in the elections of the two legislative houses in the US.
Candidates who spend the most money in the House of Representatives win the election 90 per cent of the time. And in the Senate, just over 80 percent of the time.
The amount of money spent in US elections also reflects a rising political polarisation in the country, with both sides increasingly seeing victory by the other side as an existential threat to their sides survival.
Whoever wins the 2020 elections, it is unlikely to result in less money being pumped into the US political system.