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August 23, 2016

Campaign spending reports show Clinton outspending Trump

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Essential question

How might the high cost of campaigns affect the democratic process?


The large disparity in campaign spending between presidential nominees Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump highlights the differences between the candidates’ campaign strategies.

New Federal Election Commission reports show overall spending between the candidates differs greatly, with Clinton at $319 million so far and Trump at $89.5 million. Trump’s numbers mirror his “completely unorthodox approach” to the entire campaign process, according to Matea Gold of The Washington Post.

“He actually really has scoffed at some of the traditional campaign investments that you see campaigns making over the years,” said Gold.

She cited television ads and on-the-ground campaign infrastructure as two major areas that Trump has chosen to largely ignore. Trump’s lack of spending on television ads — only $4.8 million through the end of July, compared to Clinton’s $108 million — reflects his belief that the coverage gained through earned media and social media is sufficient.

“His every remark and every tweet gets incredibly amplified through the media,” Gold said.

Regarding infrastructure, Trump has relied on the national party for local campaigning rather than paid staff. Clinton had 705 paid staffers through the end of July while Trump had 82. Gold said this practice could leave him “too vulnerable” if the Republican National Committee decides to concentrate on GOP Senate and House candidates come fall.


Key terms

Federal Election Commission (FEC) — an independent agency created in 1975 by Congress to regulate election campaign finance in the U.S.

earned media — or free media, refers to publicity gained through promotional efforts other than advertising, as opposed to paid media, which refers to publicity gained through advertising

Warm up questions (before watching the video)
  1. Do you think too much money is spent on presidential elections in the U.S.?
  2. How much money do you think Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have spent on their presidential campaigns so far?
  3. Are there laws in the U.S. limiting the amount of money individuals may contribute to presidential candidates?
Critical thinking questions (after watching the video)
  1. Why do presidential campaigns cost so much money?
  2. Why did Trump wait so long to start raising money for his campaign?
  3. Do you think campaign ads affect a person’s choice for president? Explain.

Extension Activity:

Check out our “Understanding Campaign Finance Law” lesson plan to find out more about the oversight of campaign spending in the U.S.

Sarah Seale contributed to this Daily News Story. 

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