WASHINGTON (Reuters) - With eight months to go before the U.S. presidential election, the candidates have raised almost $1 billion to fund their campaigns -- more than the size of the economies of several African countries.I'm not sure but I think my son's piggy bank is bigger than the size of the economy of some small African countries.
Weissman said the three main presidential candidates -- Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and Republican John McCain -- are pulling in a combined total of at least $100 million a month. Figures show the candidates are spending up to 93 percent of what they have raised.Remember to vote. There are children starving in Africa. And finish your vegetables.
To put the numbers into perspective, seven African countries or islands each have a gross domestic product of less than $1 billion, according to International Monetary Fund data. They include Sao Tome and Principe, Guinea-Bissau, Gambia, Comoros, the Seychelles, Liberia and Djibouti.
While they were careful not to criticize the American political process, people in some aid organizations mentioned other possible uses for so much money.
An official with CARE, one of the world's leading humanitarian organizations fighting global poverty, said even a fraction of $1 billion could help tens of millions of people.
"An additional $150 million could ensure that 10 million girls could receive a quality education. An additional $150 million could help make pregnancy and safe delivery available for 30 million women in 10 countries," said Deborah Neuman, senior vice president for resource development at CARE.
Neuman would not criticize the amount of money being spent on the campaign, saying it was important for Americans to become participants in the political process.
Of course, later in the article we get a little different perspective.
Experts said the amounts being spent in this presidential election are much higher than in most other countries, though still only a fraction of what Americans spend advertising some basic products or eating out in restaurants.But hey, what is a campaign finance story without some quotes from a disinterested campaign finance reform group, right?
A large portion of the money in the United States is spent paying for television and radio time while some other countries provide broadcast time to candidates, Weissman said.
More money is needed also because campaigns in the United States are much longer compared to many other nations. Under the American electoral system each state holds a nominating contest followed by the November general election.
Groups like U.S. PIRG and the Center for Responsive Politics say while the use of the Internet has allowed many more people to take part by donating small amounts of money, the bulk of the fund-raising is still from large donors.US PIRG? That wouldn't happen to be the Public Interest Research Group founded by presidential candidate Ralph Nader, would it?
"Yes it's a lot of money. But really -- it's less about the overall amount of money than where that money is coming from and who is supplying it," said Klaman.
Massie Ritsch of the Center for Responsive Politics said even with the Internet contributions, only about 4 percent of Americans make a contribution to a federal politician.
"The bulk of the money is coming from a tiny group of largely wealthy Americans who are having a great impact disproportionate to their numbers on something that should be important to everybody," he said.
"That is what should frighten Americans -- when these guys get elected are they looking primarily out for the good of the people or are there debts that they need to pay back," he said.
Yep, this whine about how corporate America is buying the election has been brought to you by Nader for President. Oops, Reuters forgot to include the disclaimer.
Update! I forgot, Ralph Nader is the founder of the Center for Responsive Politics, too. Hilarious.