Financial Information about Presidential Campaigns

Financing the 1996 Presidential Campaign

As the Presidential campaign moves into its final stages, we'll try to use this part of the site to summarize the financial activity of all the different parts of the process. You can get an overview of the rules for presidential campaign financing by looking at the Commission's brochure on Public Funding of Presidential campaigns.

There are three different elements in the campaign, the primary season, the national conventions, and the general election campaign.


Throughout the campaign we've been providing tables and charts that summarize the financial activity of major and minor party candidates during the 1996 primary election season.

The candidates listed have spent a total of about $237.2 million through September of 1996. By comparison, candidates in 1992 spent about $123 million during a similar time period, while candidates in 1988 spent about $210 million. There was no incumbent running for reelection in 1988, so both parties had spirited campaigns. The chart below shows overall campaign spending by Presidential primary campaigns since 1976. (You can click on the chart to see a larger version, but its a big graphic so it may take a while.)

Of all the money raised during the primary campaign ($245.5 million), about 23% came from public matching funds. (For a description of the public funding program, see The $3 Checkoff.) This is lower than past campaigns because two of the major party primary candidates (Forbes and Taylor) did not participate in the matching funds program, using primarily their own financial resources for the campaign. Candidates who receive matching funds are limited to giving only $50,000 in personal funds to their campaigns. Fifty-two percent of the funds for primary candidates in 1996 came from individuals. This is the largest source of funding for most federal campaigns, but it is particularly important for Presidential candidates because individual contributions of $250 or less may be matchable. PACs gave only 1% of the money raised in the primary season - they are always less important in presidential campaigns because there are no matching funds available for PAC contributions. Finally, the impact of the Forbes and Taylor campaigns can be seen in the fact that 19% of all funds came from the candidates themselves.


The two major party conventions are also provided public funds to pay for their expenses. In 1996, the grants to each party were about $12.36 million. In addition, each host city has a committee that raises money to defray costs the city incurrs as a result of being a convention host. The chart below summarizes Convention and Host committee financing in the last several presidential campaigns. Click on the chart to see a larger version.

General Election Campaigns

Finally, after the conventions, the two major party nominees receive grants of $61.8 million each to use for the general election. No private funds are raised for campaign purposes by the two campaigns during this period. Ross Perot received more than 5% of the vote in 1992 so he also qualifies for a grant for the 1996 general election campaign. His 19% of the vote in the last election was just under half as many votes as the average for the two major party candidates, so he has received $29 million in public funds for the 1996 general election campaign (just under half of the major party candidates' grant). Unlike the others, he may raise private funds to make up this difference, up to the $61.8 million level. The following table summarizes spending for the three publicly funded general election candidates through October 16.
Clinton/Gore $36,679,887
Dole/Kemp $48,537,793
Perot/Choate $15,867,309
Each candidate may also, however, raise funds to pay for accounting and legal services related to compliance with the requirements of the Federal Election Campaign Act. They create separate Legal and Accounting Compliance funds to receive and disburse these funds. As of October 16, the Dole/Kemp and Clinton/Gore compliance funds had raised the following;

Receipts Disbursements
Clinton/Gore $6,105,762 $3,780,720
Dole/Kemp $4,639,426 $3,793,093

Other Activity Related to the Presidential Campaign

Other participants are also spending money in the Presidential campaign. The two national party's, for example, may spent about $12 million each in coordination with the candidates advocating the election of their Presidential candidate. Parties are also spending funds on generic activity in support of all of their candidates, encouraging voters to go to the polls, etc. Other organizations and individuals may make independent expenditures advocating the election or defeat of Presidential candidates. These expenditures must be reported to the FEC, and we'll be disclosing that activity as reports are received.