Comparing Campaign Costs

Feb 16, 2012

As this is an election year, I found the two documents below very interesting when I stumbled upon them a few weeks ago. These are the expense reports for Theodore Roosevelt’s New York State Assembly campaigns in 1882 and 1883:

Campaign expenses for Theodore Roosevelt Campaign expenses for Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt’s 1882 and 1883 New York State Assembly campaign expenses. MS Am 1541 (305) and MS Am 1541 (306). Houghton Library. Harvard University. Electronic copy sponsored by the Theodore Roosevelt Center at Dickinson State University. For reproduction or publication permission, contact the Theodore Roosevelt Collection, Houghton Library.

These hardly seem official, and Roosevelt wasn’t exactly well known for his budgeting skills, but I still find the totals fascinating. In 1882, Roosevelt spent $705 on his campaign; in 1883, just $642. Translating those numbers into 2012 dollars, we’re looking at each campaign coming in at between $13,000 to $15,000 apiece. Still, that sort of money is impressive since, according to the 1880 U.S. census, the average layman made between $16-20 per week at the time.

I wondered how much it would cost to run in Roosevelt’s New York Assembly district today but Google failed me as I wasn’t able to find any campaign costs for a New York State Assemblyman on-line. However, The Pew Center on the States recorded an average cost spent of $430,780 between the years 2003-2006 for a New York State Senate run. Take into account the Assembly is the equivalent of the U.S House of Representatives, the location of Roosevelt’s district (the pricey New York City area) and one could estimate that it is between a $200,000 to $250,000 campaign budget for Roosevelt’s Assembly seat these days.

Whew, that is a lot of math for this archivist! However, I find the upward costs for running a campaign for office interesting to compare. Keep in mind, according to the New York Times as of the beginning of February, the Barack Obama Re-Election campaign has raised over $139 million. If I happen to come across Roosevelt’s expenses for his 1912 presidential campaign, I’ll be sure to compare them for you!

Posted by Krystal Thomas on Feb 16, 2012 in History  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)  |  Share this post

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