What $3 Billion in Presidential Campaign Cash Could Buy

by Jeff Reeves | June 27, 2012 7:00 am

On Tuesday, President Obama headed to Atlanta and Miami for $2.3 million in fund-raisers[1]. Not a bad one-day haul.

Think that’s a lot of money? Well Republican challenger Mitt Romney raised more than $76 million last month[2] for his presidential campaign. That made Obama’s $60 million take for May look rather paltry.

And you think that’s a lot of money? Well, consider that both major candidates and their sycophantic Super PACs are expected to burn $2 billion this year[3]. And that’s only about two-thirds of the $3 billion they’re going to raise.

Think about that … these politicians are spending $2 billion on the race for the White House, and groups will be sitting on an extra $1 billion they won’t even spend before Election Day. This while Europe is in financial ruin, millions of Americans are out of work and the stock market continues to gyrate with investor uncertainty[4].

Rather than rant about the corruption or inequity of this political spending, I thought I’d simply illustrate just how big the 2012 campaign is by comparing it with other expenses. Then, you can decide for yourself whether these politicians and their donors have their priorities straight.

What if we spent this money on government projects?

National Parks: $3 billion is admittedly less than 1% of the roughly $3.8 trillion federal budget. But did you know that figure would completely pay the entire National Park Service budget[5] for one year with enough left over to pay for over 17,500 vehicles to visit the Grand Canyon free of charge?

Schools: Think parks aren’t a necessity? How about schools? Romney should know that Boston Public Schools in his home state of Massachusetts has a fiscal 2013 budget of $850 million[6]. $3 billion gives the district roughly three years of operating costs. Obama’s boyhood home of Hawaii has a fiscal 2012-2013 budget of $1.8 billion[7] for the Department of Education, so the political funds could run the entire state’s system running for almost two years.

Police and Fire: As senator from Illinois, Obama undoubtedly spoke often in support of first responders. So, I wonder how he feels that $1.9 billion[8] could fund the annual public safety budget (police and fire) of the great city of Chicago.

Local Governments: As for Romney, he could fund the entire city budget of Boston[9] for a full year — parks, schools, police, fire, public works … you name it. Or if he wanted to be generous to an all-important swing state like Pennsylvania, he could bail out its debt-riddled capital city. Harrisburg had to declare Chapter 9 bankruptcy after being crippled by $310 million in debt[10]. The election funds could foot that bill almost 10 times over.

OK, so some people are understandably skeptical of fiscal responsibility in the public sector. So, if you don’t want to tackle government spending, then what would $3 billion buy on the private market?

6M iPads. At $499, you could buy more than 6 million entry-level models of the new iPad from Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL[11]). That’s enough for every resident of Los Angeles and Dallas combined — or every resident in the swing state of Wisconsin.

158k Cars: Want to help rebuild Detroit? $3 billion would buy almost 158,000 Chrysler 200 sedans from the reborn automaker. Of course, if you don’t like the foreign ownership of Fiat, you can always buy 136,000 Ford Focus sedans instead.

16,500 homes: Or we could bleed down some excess housing inventory. The National Association of Realtors just reported a median price of $182,600 for existing homes. That $3 billion in campaign cash could pay for almost 16,500 units at that price.

A Whole Company: If Romney wanted to revisit his Bain Capital days, he could make a bid for former GOP primary rival Jon Huntsman’s company. Nevada’s Huntsman Corp. (NYSE:HUN[12]) is a chemical company started 40 years ago by Huntsman’s father, Jon Sr., and is worth about $3 billion. The cash could also buy big consumer names Tupperware Brands (NYSE:TUP[13]) or packaged-foods giant Dean Foods (NYSE:DF[14]).

You get the picture by now, I hope.

In America, a $3 billion price tag may not raise an eyebrow in some political circles. But in these difficult economic times, it’s worth pointing out what else that money could buy.

Especially considering the fact that half of Americans[15] think neither Obama or Romney can fix the economy.

Jeff Reeves is the editor of InvestorPlace.com, and the author of “The Frugal Investor’s Guide to Finding Great Stocks.”[16] Write him at editor@investorplace.com or follow him on Twitter via @JeffReevesIP. As of this writing, Jeff Reeves did not own a position in any of the stocks named here.

  1. $2.3 million in fund-raisers: http://www.boston.com/news/politics/articles/2012/06/26/obama_heads_south_to_raise_campaign_cash/
  2. raised more than $76 million last month: http://www.newsday.com/news/nation/romney-outraises-obama-76-million-to-60-million-1.3767096
  3. Super PACs are expected to burn $2 billion this year: http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2012/06/25/forget-1-billion-the-3-billion-campaign-is-here/
  4. investor uncertainty: http://investorplace.com/2012/06/worn-down-investors-turn-off-cnbc-amid-market-malaise/
  5. the entire National Park Service budget: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BUDGET-2011-BUD/pdf/BUDGET-2011-BUD-14.pdf
  6. $850 million: http://www.bostonpublicschools.org/files/2012-2-1_fy13_preliminary_budget_cover_memo.pdf
  7. $1.8 billion: http://doe.k12.hi.us/reports/budget/BienniumOperatingBudgetRequest_1113.pdf
  8. $1.9 billion: http://www.cityofchicago.org/dam/city/depts/obm/supp_info/2012%20Budget/2012BudgetOverview.pdf
  9. the entire city budget of Boston: http://www.cityofboston.gov/auditing/pdfs/FY2011-CAFR.pdf
  10. $310 million in debt: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204002304576626752997922080.html
  11. AAPL: http://studio-5.financialcontent.com/investplace/quote?Symbol=AAPL
  12. HUN: http://studio-5.financialcontent.com/investplace/quote?Symbol=HUN
  13. TUP: http://studio-5.financialcontent.com/investplace/quote?Symbol=TUP
  14. DF: http://studio-5.financialcontent.com/investplace/quote?Symbol=DF
  15. half of Americans: http://www.greenbaypressgazette.com/viewart/20120626/GPG03/306260124/Poll-on-economy
  16. “The Frugal Investor’s Guide to Finding Great Stocks.”: http://www.amazon.com/Frugal-Investors-Finding-Stocks-ebook/dp/B007KB9CSI/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1331819172&sr=8-1

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