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1996 Federal Campaign Spending Up 33% From 1992; Total Candidate and Major Party Disbursements Top $2 Billion

January 30, 1997

1996 Federal Campaign Spending Up 33% From 1992; Total Candidate and Major Party Disbursements Top $2 Billion

Washington, D.C., — Public Citizen today released a post-election summary of spending by federal candidates and the two major parties during the 1996 elections. Shattering all previous records, total spending surpassed the $2 billion mark. These 1996 figures represent a 33% increase over the $1.50 billion in total spending for 1992, the last presidential cycle. Although the 1996 total includes $234 million of public funds spent by the presidential campaigns, the vast majority of the money was again raised through large contributions from wealthy individuals, corporations, and special interest PACs.

“These staggering sums show, once again, the compelling need for Congress to enact real reform of our campaign finance system,” said Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook.

The new totals surpass old records in virtually every category. Total major party spending, including all “hard” and “soft” dollars topped $866 million, up over 80% from the $479.9 million spent in 1992. “Soft money” spending (supported by unregulated, large donations to the major party committees from wealthy individuals, corporations, and labor unions) by the Republican Party totaled nearly $150 million, up 224% from the $46.2 million the party spent in 1992. Meanwhile, the Democratic Party’s $117 million in “soft money” disbursements were up 257% from the $32.9 million spent in 1992.

Congressional campaign spending also reached new heights. From January 1, 1995 through November 25, 1996, congressional candidates spent over $742 million. Republican candidates outspent Democrats $331 million to $292 million. Once again this year, incumbents easily outspent challengers $330 million to $152 million, a whopping two-to-one advantage, as more than 95% of incumbents were reelected. PAC contributions to congressional candidates totaled $192 million, up 13% from 1994 contributions of $165.5 million, while individuals contributed $382 million, up 8% from the $335.7 million given by individuals in the 1994 election cycle.

“Because of the huge amount of money that pours into federal campaigns, too many of our elected officials cater to the demands of special interests rather than to the concerns of the ordinary citizen,” said Claybrook. “The new Congress has the chance to confront the shameful excesses of the 1996 campaign and to enact real campaign finance reform. It cannot afford to let this window of opportunity close without significantly reducing the staggering spending that the current system permits.”

1996 Federal Election Spending

by Candidates and Parties

Presidential Campaigns

Clinton/Gore: Primary* $42,500,000
General** $61,800,000
Dole/Kemp Primary $44,600,000
General $61,800,000
Perot & Others Primary $156,900,000
General $29,000,000
Total Presidential Campaigns $396,600,000  

Congressional Campaigns (Through 11/25/96)

Republicans $331,000,000
Democrats $292,000,000
Other Party $3,600,000
Special Election Candidates $16,000,000
Defeated Primary Candidates $100,000,000
Total Congressional Campaigns $742,600,000

Party Committees (Through 11/25/96)

Republican Federal (“Hard”) $400,600,000
Non-Federal (“Soft”) $149,600,000
Total Republican Party $550,200,000  
Democratic Federal (“Hard”) $198,600,000
Non-Federal (“Soft”) $117,300,000
Total Democratic Party $315,900,000  
Total Major Party Spending $866,100,000 Conventions
Republican Public Money $12,400,000
Host Committees $13,000,000
Democratic Public Money $12,400,000
Host Committees $9,000,000  
Total Major Party Convention $46,800,000

Total Candidate and Party Spending in 1996 Federal Election Campaigns: $2,052,100,000

*Presidential primary amounts include public matching funds ($13.5 million to Clinton/Gore, $13.5 million to Dole/Kemp, and $29 million to other presidential primary campaigns).

** Presidential general election amounts are exclusively public money.

Source: Figures compiled by Public Citizen from Federal Election Commission reports.