US Election: most expensive in history

11:34, 04 November 2008
World
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As candidates raise more than $1bn

With the internet being harnessed to amass political donations on a huge scale for the first time, Democratic challenger Barack Obama has managed to smash all previous records – raising $639m (£405m) to date, according to the Federal Election Commission, Telegraph reported.

Rival John McCain, of the Republican party - who has admitted that he does not send email, let alone use the internet regularly - has raised just over half that - $335m.

This is the first election in US history where the two candidates have raised more than $1bn, and this is just one of a myriad of donation records that have been smashed.

Individual donations are at the heart of the American political donation process, with strict limits on who can and cannot donate, and how much one person can donate - $2,300 in case you were wondering.

But in the midst of a lot of talk in the US about personal political empowerment and the number of people who have donated to a Presidential election campaign for the first time, the figures show just how individuals from important certain industries, and certain companies, have been to the fundraising effort.

Unsurprisingly, some $42m has come from the securities and investment industry – ranking third behind retired donors ($103.9m) and lawyers ($84m) – in the US Presidential election race, which includes monies that went to unsuccessful candidates including Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney.

Of that money, $12.6m has gone to Obama, and $7.9m to McCain, with New York favourites Mrs Clinton and Rudi Giuliani – she being the State’s junior Senator, him being the former Mayor - receiving $6.1m and $5m respectively, even though their campaigns finished months ago.

Taking the 2008 election cycle in full – including all candidates and the races in the House of Representatives and the Senate – and Wall Street has donated in excess of $122m, according to monitoring website OpenSecrets.

Of that money, the most generous firm, based on its employees, is Goldman Sachs, with staff donating $4.59m.

Interestingly, however, the level of Goldman donations is down on 2004, the last Presidential election cycle, by some 39pc, although the proportion of money gifted to Democratic candidates has increased, from 62pc in 2004 to 73pc now.

Looking at other Wall Street firms, donations are also down elsewhere Morgan Stanley’s employees have donated approximately 5pc less, while Credit Suisse’s staff donations are also down.

It may be that there will have been a surge in the final days of the campaign which has yet to show up in the figures, but it may also be that as bankers begin to feel the pinch, so their political inclinations begin to wane.

Interestingly, the who’s who of who has donated and from which firms is somewhat outdated – given the events of the last few months.

Staff from Lehman Brothers – which filed for bankruptcy last September – donated $2.16m, while even those who list themselves as working for Bear Stearns on their donation form gave $1.13m before the firm was subsumed by JP Morgan Chase in March.

Of course, the credit crunch hasn’t stopped the big hitters from getting involved. Henry Kravis, of private equity house KKR, donated his $2,300 for McCain back in August. His cousin, and fellow KKR co-founder, George Roberts did so in June.

Former AIG chairman Hank Greenberg did likewise around the start of McCain’s campaign, last June.

Individual donations for Obama from well-known Wall Street names include $2,300 from former Lehman chairman Dick Fuld, and from ex-Citigroup chairman Chuck Prince.

But whatever the donations, and whoever they have come from, as the polls open across America today, all the time for spending will be over – and it will be the power of the ballot, rather than the power of the dollar, which will provide the final results.

Telegraph

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