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How Trump and Biden Raise Campaign Funds

How Trump and Biden Raise Campaign Funds

As of: April 12, 2024 11:00 am

Election campaigns in the US cost huge sums of money. So Trump and Biden do a lot to collect donations. Although money does not always decide everything in the end, experts criticize this bias of politics.

In most polls so far, Joe Biden has trailed Donald Trump. But Biden has long had a clear lead in one area: campaign fundraising. At the end of March, Biden's campaign team said it had $192 million in its coffers, more than double Trump's. Biden spends money lavishly, for example running election campaigns in swing states — especially contested states — that can make a difference of a few thousand votes.

“As bad as Trump has been as president, the economy has been even worse under him. And black Americans felt it the most,” Biden says in an ad aimed at metropolitan areas with high proportions of black voters.

From the Bible to the Golden Sneaker

Trump is causing quite a stir with quite different activities: Not only did he claim to have raised $50 million from a single fundraising dinner — according to the Washington Post, a seat at Trump's table cost $814,600.

For example, he encourages small donors to buy a Bible for less than $60: “All Americans need a Bible at home. I have a lot, and that's my favorite book,” Trump says in an online video, adding a variation of his slogan, “Make America Great Again”: “Pray America Again have to do”.

At a shoe trade show, Trump touted the gold sneakers — $399 a pair. “Sneakers are a microcosm of what's going on in many campaigns, including Biden's,” said Ciara Torres-Spellici, a campaign finance expert at Stetson University in Florida. “Promotional materials are produced for a fraction of their cost, and the rest is collected as campaign donations.” Some of the details are strange, but the overall picture is serious, says the law professor.

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According to the website OpenSecrets, the 2020 presidential campaign will cost $14.4 billion, more than double what it did in 2016. And it is expected to be even more expensive in 2024.

Billionaire politicians

Problem number one: It's mainly the super-rich who go into politics, and that goes for representatives and senators: “For a very long time, most members of Congress and senators have actually been billionaires,” says Torres-Spellici. There are increasing cases of individuals who rise to the top through clever social media campaigns with no assets being elected as Members of Parliament. “But it rarely is.”

Problem number two: the influence of big donors. The legislative process is so complex that it is rarely possible to prove that a specific donation leads to a specific result – for example, in the case of a donation from an oil or arms producer. But there are biases, Torres-Spellici says.

“There's a reason some people liken the law to sausage production. You really don't want to see that happen.”

There is no penalty for violating the Donation Act

Problem number three: The Federal Election Commission (FEC) has an equal number of Democrats and Republicans. In disputes over whether a campaign donation is legal or not, a stalemate usually results and violations are rarely punished.

Torres-Spellici says it also played a role in the question of whether Trump should be allowed to cover a portion of his legal fees for many of his legal actions from campaign funds. In their view, Trump is on the brink of further impeachment.

Ultimately, the voters decide

But in the end, the professor insists, money isn't everything. Hillary Clinton already had more money in the 2016 election campaign, but Trump won. That's why Biden's monetary advantage is no guarantee of victory.

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Expert's conclusion: “Money has a huge influence on American politics.” But ultimately the voters decide. “Everyone should go to the polls, tune out all the noise of the election campaign, and say to themselves: I'm voting for the candidate who represents my interests.”

Ralf Borchardt, ARD Washington, tagesschau, April 12, 2024 5:44 am