The election that gave us President Donald Trump was the costliest ever, according to an analysis by OpenSecrets.org. The campaign finance watchdog found that the presidential race had a combined $2.4 billion in spending in 2016, while congressional races saw $4 billion flow into candidates' coffers.
Although the 2016 races saw a 3 percent increase from 2012's figure of $6.3 billion, adjusted inflation would have the 2016 totals lower than the 2012 election cycle, by about 1.4 percent.
OpenSecrets.org reports that the presidential race saw the largest drop, as the 19 major candidates who entered the race spent almost $2.4 billion, down from the $2.8 billion spent in 2012.
The shrinkage in campaign spending in 2016 has more to do with Trump's presence in the race, as his campaign cost almost half the amount than Hillary Clinton's. Trump's campaign spent $398 million last year, while Clinton dolled out $768 million.
“This was the first presidential cycle of the 21st century in which traditional campaign spending declined,” said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, the think tank that manages the OpenSecrets.org blog.
“Yet the value of earned media can’t be ignored. Media outlets provided nonstop coverage of Donald Trump’s campaign, reducing the negative effect of comparatively anemic spending by his campaign and conservative outside groups,” Krumholz added.
OpenSecrets.org points to Trump's free media as the catalyst to his upset electoral victory:
But Trump was Trump, and thus a constant focus of media attention. According to mediaQuant, Inc., from July 2015 through October 2016 Trump received free media worth more than $5.9 billion. Clinton received less than half that figure, a little under $2.8 billion.