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US campaign price tag: US$1 billion plus
Updated: 2004-08-21 08:53

Spending by US presidential and congressional candidates and the national party committees that support them already tops US$1 billion for the 2004 election cycle, with more than two months of campaigning to go.

U.S. President Bush alone devoted US$209 million to his re-election effort through July, a campaign finance report he filed Friday shows.

The spending by Bush, Democratic rival John Kerry, congressional candidates and national party committees had surpassed US$1 billion by the end of June, the period covered by the most recent finance reports many of them filed.

Kerry spent nearly US$150 million through June, his most recent finance report to the Federal Election Commission shows. His report covering July was due at the FEC by midnight Friday.

In addition, Senate and House candidates spent US$487 million from January 2003 through last June, and national party committees burned through more than US$400 million, their reports covering the 18-month period show.

The spending tops mid-election year levels in 2002 and 2000, when national party committees could still raise corporate, union and unlimited donations known as soft money.

Under a law that took effect starting with this election cycle, the biggest contribution they can collect is US$25,000 from an individual — limited donations known as hard money — and corporate and union contributions are banned. Individuals can give up to US$2,000 to a presidential or congressional candidate under the law, which doubled that limit.

“The parties and the presidential campaigns have just been hard-money machines,” said Bob Biersack, a spokesman for the FEC who tracks campaign fund raising and spending. “On the presidential side it’s both ends: money in those $2,000 increments, but it’s also a lot of small contributions for Bush and Kerry. And I think the same is true for the parties.”

In addition, nonparty groups that can still collect soft money are spending tens of millions on ads and get-out-the-vote efforts.

In the presidential race, advertising has been the single biggest expense, accounting for at least US$116 million of Bush’s spending and at least US$93 million of Kerry’s.

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