The final financial documents of the 2012 campaign cement a place in history for the election as a whole as well as its biggest fundraiser, President Barack Obama.
The 2012 election's $6 billion price tag is officially the most ever spent, and President Barack Obama is officially the biggest fundraiser in the modern history of American politics, the Federal Election Commission filings show.
Obama's official fundraising apparatus raised about $1.2 billion in the 2012 cycle, and his personal campaign committee pulled in about $730 million of that (the rest was raised in conjunction with the Democratic party), according to filings. Including his 2008 haul of $778 million and his congressional campaigns before that, Obama has raised $1.5 billion as a federal candidate.
In just two presidential runs, Obama has outraised the four previous Republican presidential nominees combined, as the below graph shows.
All of the Republican nominees above but Mitt Romney accepted public financing; in 2008, Obama became the first nominee to turn down the public financing system's matching funds since the system's creation following Watergate. The totals include only the money raised by the candidates themselves, not their parties. Obama's fundraising totals for his two congressional runs are also included, though they are slivers compared to his presidential totals.
Mitt Romney alone was no match for Obama in fundraising, but he got by with a lot of help from his friends. His personal committee raised $473 million—$257 million less than Obama's—but outside groups and the Republican Party carried him the rest of the way. The Republican National Committee raised nearly $500 million on his behalf, and his super PAC raised $143 million, more than twice what Obama's raised. Conservative outside groups helped Romney, too. The Koch brothers' Americans for Prosperity and two Crossroads groups founded by Karl Rove chipped in another $146 million.
Such outside spending helps explain why the 2012 election bested the 2008 one in total cost despite the fact that the latter featured two presidential primaries.
As expected, money from so-called independent groups went through the roof in 2012. Led by the presidential super PACs and the Crossroads groups, this outside money totaled $1.3 billion in 2012, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Since the Center began tallying outside money in 1990, that figure had never before eclipsed $300 million.
The higher cost of this election is also reflected in the most expensive congressional races, which were costlier than in previous years. The Massachusetts Senate battle cost $70 million in 2012, more than $10 million more than the priciest race in 2010 and nearly twice the most expensive Senate race of 2008. Michele Bachmann's re-election effort in Minnesota's 6th district, the most expensive House race of 2012, also bested the priciest House races of the 2008 and 2010 cycles.
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Seth Cline is a reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow him on Twitter or reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.