The Reason Running For US President Costs So Much

Oftentimes, people running for political office are among the wealthy in the United States. Right from the start, Presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson came from rich families and owned large amounts of land. President John F. Kennedy's father, Joe Kennedy, was one of the richest men in the country, giving significant inheritance to his children. Some former presidents received money because of their spouses. President Andrew Jackson's wife died before he took office, leaving him with inheritance from her wealthy family (per VOA). President Donald Trump was famous for his real estate wealth before entering politics. 

Even so, presidential hopefuls perform significant amounts of fundraising for their campaigns. This is because running for office does not come cheap, especially running for president. It sometimes seems that political ads flood every possible media outlet during every election year. Candidates fly all over the country for speeches and support rallies. The costs add up quickly.

Ads made up the bulk of President Joe Biden's expenses

The average consumer likely does not think about the cost of ads too often, aside from the millions spent on Super Bowl ads or the fact that ads affect the cost of products. Some streaming services are cheaper per month or entirely free because they contain ad breaks. Ads cost money to produce and to run, whether for a business or a political candidate. Go Banking Rates compiled some statistics for the 2020 election and found that by October of 2020, ads accounted for 67% of President Joe Biden's expenses (per the Center for Responsive Politics, via Go Banking Rates). Even an ad that ran for only two weeks in Iowa took a little over $200,000 (per FiveThirtyEight, via Go Banking Rates).

CNN explained in 2011 that what makes a presidential campaign cost so much regardless of what the candidates spend money on is the length of time that they have to spend it. Sometimes, campaigns for America's highest office begin two years before election day.

Staff salaries take a large portion of funding

It takes a village to run for president, and lot of these villagers are paid staff members. For campaign managers, salaries run anywhere between $57,000 and $71,000 (per Some campaign contributors are people who volunteer their time for free, such as door-to-door canvassers, but staff costs still reached around $43 million for President Joe Biden in the leadup to the 2020 election. President Donald Trump's staff salaries only amounted to around $18 million, but his administrative costs were upwards of $41 million (per Go Banking Rates).

Another source of funding for presidential campaigns are wealthy organizations. CNN states that large companies and nonprofits do not have limits on how much they contribute to political causes. Some, including Obama, have criticized this, believing that it gives groups with special interests too much power when it comes to getting their favorite candidate elected. Obama's 2012 campaign announcement immediately brought in 23,000 small donors through social media campaigns, showing that it may be possible to win without donors from large organizations.