The $9 Billion President

The President of the United States of America (acronym: POTUS) makes an annual salary of $400,000 along with a $50,000 annual expense account. So I find it interesting that about $9 billion* will be spent on campaigns this year to get the job.

That’s $9 BILLION with a “B” and a whole bunch of zeros. About $1.5 billion will come from the candidates’ campaigns, and the balance from Super PACs (political action committees) aka “special interest groups.” Honestly, it makes me dizzy.

What’s Going On?

Am I the only one wondering what is going on? How much influence does the presidency have? And how much influence do the special interest groups have with the president? Attempts to limit spending on the presidential election haven’t really been accepted in practice.

Congress tried to set some guidelines, but going around the guidelines is a time-honored tradition in Washington. Both candidates have rejected matching federal funds, so there is virtually no limit to what can be spent. Does that make a difference? Of course it does.

My First Presidency

I am president of my company because I’m the founder. But my first presidency was in high school, when I was elected president of my class. And I have to admit that, much like Obama and Romney, I went around the guidelines to help my cause.

At my high school, the four candidates were told we could not hang posters in the halls or classrooms. We had one pitch over the public address system and that was supposed to be it…but I had other ideas.

I am ashamed to admit it now, but it the spirit of transparency, I have to share that I had business cards printed that read “SEX SEX SEX — Now that I have your attention, remember to vote for George Farris for Senior Class President.” Yes, it was a protest of what I saw as stifling my freedom of expression — but it was a publicity stunt first and foremost.

It probably seems tame in this era of presidential sex scandals and internet porn, but in the 70s at a Catholic high school, it created a buzz. Much to the school administration’s dismay, I was elected. Did my scandalous handout break the rules? No. Was it the right thing to do? Probably not, but it seemed like it at the time.

Is that what we’re doing? Spending billions because to each group it seems like the right thing to do? Or are billions spent to promote individual agendas?

I Could Get Anyone Elected

If I were able to use half of that $9 billion total campaign spending, I could get just about anyone elected: your mail carrier, your mother, your dentist, the neighborhood kid that cuts my grass. In fact, any one of them may be able to do the job. But is that right? Should that even be possible?

Time To Set Some Rules

I believe in freedom of expression. I am in the advertising business. But the guidelines don’t work. It’s time to set some rules.

*Source: American Association of Advertising Agencies (Media Matters, April 12, 2012)

About The Author

  • Author | George Farris
George Farris is CEO and Senior Brand Coach at Farris Marketing. Email questions and comments to and connect with George on LinkedIn using the icons above.

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