How much it costs to become president of the United States

The 2016 election was one of the most contentious in history and is on track to be the most expensive, costing at least $6.6 billion, according to an estimate by the Center for Responsive Politics.

A lot of that spending will go to the top of the ballot, headed by the presidential nominees Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. As of Oct. 25, the presidential candidates had spent a combined $1.13 billion running for president. That overshadows the $913 million spent by the candidates in the 2012 election at the same point in the race.

So, where does all the money go? And why does it cost so much to become the most powerful man — or woman — in the world? Here are some of the places candidates put their cash.

See: The Richest Politician in Every State

Media Buys

You're not getting to the White House without booming your message — and blasting your opponent — with millions of dollars in advertising. Both Trump and Clinton have made enough media buys to make every network executive's Christmas list.

Between the two candidates, there is a clear winner in the spending sweepstakes. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Clinton has spent more than $125.1 million on media, making Trump's $30.4 million look like chump change.

It's easy to see how the candidates spent so much. The cost to run a 30-second ad on CBS during the post-first debate show was between $200,000 and $225,000, according to Variety. That's between $6,666 and $7,500 per second, folks.

Compare Clinton and Trump's media buys to those of Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson — who has spent a measly $87,000 on media — and the Green Party candidate Jill Stein's roughly $484,200. Now you start to see why it's a two-party system.

RELATED: The richest presidents of all time:

Ranking the US presidents by net worth
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Ranking the US presidents by net worth
43. Harry S. Truman: <$1 million

33rd President (1945-1953)

(Photo via Bettmann via Getty Images)

42. Calvin Coolidge: <$1 million

30th President (1923-1929)

(Photo via Bettmann via Getty Images)

41. Woodrow Wilson: <$1 million

28th President (1913-1921)

(Photo by JHU Sheridan Libraries/Gado/Getty Images)

40. Chester A. Arthur: <$1 million

21st President (1881-1885)

(Photo via Bettmann via Getty Images)

39. James A. Garfield: <$1 million

20th President (1881-1881)

(Photo by National Archive/Newsmakers)

38. Ulysses S. Grant: <$1 million

18th President (1869-1877)

(Photo by The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images)

37. Andrew Johnson: <$1 million 

17th President (1865-1869)

(Photo by The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images)

36. Abraham Lincoln: <$1 million

16th President (1861-1865)

(Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images).

35. James Buchanan: <$1 million

15th President (1857-1861)

(Photo by Stock Montage/Stock Montage/Getty Images)

34. Warren G. Harding: $1 million

29th President (1921-1923)

(Photo by ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

33. William McKinley: $1 million

25th President (1897-1901)

(Photo via Bettmann via Getty Images)

32. Franklin Pierce: $2 million

14th President (1853-1857)

(Photo by National Archive/Newsmakers)

31. William Howard Taft: $3 million

27th President (1909-1913)

(Photo by: Liverani/Andia/UIG via Getty Images)

30. Rutherford B. Hayes: $3 million

19th President (1877-1881)

(Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

29. Millard Fillmore: $4 million

13th President (1850-1853)

(Photo by Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)
28. Benjamin Harrison: $5 million

23rd President (1889-1893)

(Photo via Bettmann via Getty Images)

27. William Henry Harrison: $5 million

9th President (1841-1841)

(Photo by National Archive/Newsmakers)

26. Zachary Taylor: $6 million 

12th President (1849-1850)

(Photo by Bettman via Getty Images)

25. Jimmy Carter: $7 million

39th President (1977-1981)

(Photo by Universal History Archive/Getty Images)

24. Gerald Ford: $7 million

38th President (1974-1977)

(Photo via Bettman via Getty Images)

23. Barack Obama: $7 million

44th President (2009-present)

(Photo by Oscar Gonzalez/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

22. Dwight Eisenhower: $8 million

34th President (1953-1961)

(Photo by Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)

21. James K. Polk: $10 million

11th President (1845-1849)

(Photo via Bettmann via Getty Images)

20. Ronald Reagan: $13 million

40th President (1981-1989)

(Photo by Harry Langdon/Getty Images)

19. Richard Nixon: $15 million

37th President (1969-1974)

(Photo by Keystone-France\Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

18. John Adams: $19 million

2nd President (1797-1801)

(Photo by Stock Montage/Stock Montage/Getty Images)

17. George W. Bush: $20 million

43rd President (2001-2009)

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

16. John Quincy Adams: $21 million

6th President (1825-1829)

(Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

15. George H. W. Bush: $23 million

41st President: (1989-1993)

(Photo by David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images)

14. Grover Cleveland: $25 million

22nd and 24th President (1885-1889) and (1893-1897)

(Photo by Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)

13. Martin Van Buren: $26 million 

8th President: (1837-1841)

(Photo by Stock Montage/Stock Montage/Getty Images)

12. James Monroe: $27 million

5th President (1817-1825)

(Photo by: Getty Images)

11. John Tyler: $51 million

10th President (1841-1845)

(Photo by National Archive/Newsmakers)

10. Bill Clinton: $55 million

42nd President (1993-2001)

(Photo Bettmann via Getty Images)

9. Franklin D. Roosevelt: $60 million

32nd President (1933-1945)

(Photo by VCG Wilson/Corbis via Getty Images)

8. Herbert Clark Hoover: $75 million

31st President (1929-1933)

(Photo via Bettmann via Getty Images)

7. Lyndon Johnson: $98 million

36th President: (1963-1969)

(Photo via Bettmann via Getty Images)

6. James Madison: $101 million

4th President (1809-1817)

(Photo via Bettmann via Getty Images)

5. Andrew Jackson: $119 million

7th President (1829-1837)

(Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)

4. Theodore Roosevelt: $125 million

26th President (1901-1909)

(Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

3. Thomas Jefferson: $212 million

3rd President (1801-1809)

(Photo by Kean Collection/Getty Images)

2. George Washington: $525 million

1st President (1789-1797)

(Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

2.* John F. Kennedy: $1 billion 

35th President (1961-1963)

*Had he lived, JFK would have inherited $1 billion from his father. 

(Photo via Bettmann via Getty Images)

1. Donald Trump: $3.5 billion

45th President (2017-)



Sure, a lot of people are going to believe in you so much that they'll volunteer to knock on doors, stuff envelopes and phone people. But unfortunately, you're going to need to actually pay most of your staff.

In fact, Clinton has paid $60.5 million in salaries this election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. She's also racked up another $28.5 million in administrative costs. Trump has spent $18.3 million on administrative costs, but his cost for salaries is unknown.

A ValuePenguin report on campaign salaries and positions from earlier this year shed additional light on the subject. It found the average salary — when including field positions — was $43,543 in the Clinton campaign. In the Trump campaign, the average salary when including field positions was $45,555.

Of course, some positions make more. According to the report, nab the role of Clinton's political director and you'll earn $114,048. The same job in the Trump camp pays $240,000.

Related: The Richest Presidential Candidates Who Never Got Elected


You've got to spend money to get money. And nowhere is that more true than in a run to become president of the United States.

In Clinton's case, she's spent $14.7 million specifically on "fundraising," the Center for Responsive Politics said. Considering her campaign committee has raised $497.8 million through fundraising efforts, it seems like a good investment — when was the last time you made an investment that multiplied by 33 times in one year?

In Trump's case, it's a bit harder to divine just how much he's spent to garner donations. According to the center, Trump's spent $7.2 million on "campaign expenses" and another $6.4 million on "strategy and research." In any event, his campaign committee has raised $247.5 million.

Democratic and Republican National Conventions

Want to throw a national party convention? Bring a lot of cash. What 2016's conventions might have lacked in style and substance was more than made up for in cost. Although there are no verified final expenses reported, there are estimates.

First, each city hosting a convention was eligible for up to $50 million in federal money for security costs, thanks to a law passed by the 114th Congress.

Reportedly, Philadelphia — host of the Democratic convention — requested $43 million for security, personnel, equipment and supplies. In addition, the city set a budget of $84 million when bidding for the convention, according to The Fiscal Times. Corporate and private donors contributed $67.2 million of that $84 million. The final cost of the convention was $127 million.

Related: Trump Won't Release His Taxes — But These Presidents Did

Things reportedly were a little shakier in Cleveland, site of the Republican convention. Although the city got the same pledge of $50 million in federal funds for security, The Fiscal Times reported that, before the convention, the GOP was short millions of its $64 million fundraising goal. Cleveland, Cuyahoga County and the state of Ohio did chip in a collective $15 million, but other factors contributed to a shortfall.

For instance, protest insurance topped other costs, slurping up a whopping $9.5 million, compared to just $1.2 million spent on the same insurance in 2012, The Fiscal Times reported. Although the final cost of the convention remains unreported, pre-event estimates by put the figure at $100 million.

Which convention was worth the cost? Find out on election day 2016.

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