The high price of the presidency

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This spending in this year's presidential race will crush the record set in 2008. But how outrageous will the sums be? As of October 17, the numbers were staggering.

First, some context. The 2008 presidential election cost $1.7 billion, twice as much as the 2004 presidential election.

In 2012, spending will at least double that number. With a month left, the race had already passed the $1 billion mark. This breakdown from the Sunlight Foundation lays it out. President Barack Obama, a Democrat, had raised $632.2 million as of October 17, and spent $540.8 million. Republican candidate Mitt Romney had raised $389.1 million as of the same date, and spent $336.4 million. But once party and PAC spending is figured in, spending for each candidate hovers around $1 billion (see this breakdown).

The picture isn't any prettier in Congress. House candidates have raised approximately $1 billion and spent approximately $891.9 million, according to Opensecrets.org. Senate candidates have raised $627.6 million and spent $540.6 million.

Politicians need money to run for office, but spending has exploded, fed in part by a 2010 Supreme Court decision that ended prohibitions on corporations' spending on elections. Super PAC's, corporations, unions, and other outside groups have put more than $1.1 billion into the presidential, House, and Senate races.

The problem with much of that money is that the sources are untraceable. For example, Karl Rove's American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS leads in independent expenditures, so far spending $157.6 million. But the group doesn't disclose its donors, and by law it doesn't have to.

The amount of money in these races is astonishing. The fact that the public can't find out who's responsible for a large portion of it is inexcusable.

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