The race to the White House comes with huge costs. And a large portion of this cost remains unlimited, unaccountable and many times, anonymous.
And Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton is besting Republican nominee Donald Trump in terms of outside support, as well as in her own fund-raising. The advantage will give her an edge when it comes to purchasing valuable television and online advertising that can broaden her message and woo voters to her candidacy. Although she holds a solid lead in most recent polls, the political climate has been unpredictable, and the extra cash will likely help her rack up support.
It is a result of the the 2010 Citizens United ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, which allowed unrestricted campaign contributions to support political campaigns. The 5-4 ruling prevented government from restricting spending on campaigns by non-profit organizations. The ruling has extended to corporations, unions and other groups.
Although outside groups, such as Super-PACs and dark money groups, cannot coordinate with a political candidate's campaign, they can spend huge sums supporting the candidate or tearing down an opponent. Critics say that they are now having an undue influence on elections, while supporters of the Citizens United ruling insist that unlimited contributions are a free speech issue -- namely, that groups should be able to spend as much as they like in support of an individual or issue.
Clinton has vowed to overturn the Citizen's United ruling and end what she considers the unaccountability of huge donations. Meanwhile, according to the watchdog and research group, OpenSecrets.org, outside groups have spent more than $110 milllion on Clinton's campaign. The Clinton campaign itself has raised more than $264 million.
Trump has raised about $90 million through donations, but outside Republican groups have been largely missing from the race. They have been soured by the New York businessman's regular gaffes and combativeness. The latest controversy stems from Trump's criticism of the parents of a Muslim soldier whose son died in a suicide attack in Afghanistan in 2004. The couple, Khizr and Ghazala Kahn, criticized Trump at the Democratic convention as being insensitive and ill-suited to become president.
Outside groups have spent only about $10 million in support of his campaign. Instead, they have focused their attention on senatorial races in the hope that the Republicans can maintain control there. Republicans currently hold a 54-46 majority.
Outside groups have spent $17.8 million in Clinton's support and $12.8 million opposing her.
Pro-Clinton individual Super PACS like Priorities USA Action have spent close to a total of $5.7 million, followed closely by Hybrid PACs like Correct the Records and Ready PAC. Altogether, these PACs have spent a total $16 million in supporting Clinton. Priorities USA Action has raised significant amounts opposing Trump, as well.
Meanwhile, Restoration PAC and America Rising PAC have raised close to $2.8 million opposing Clinton.
Trump has self-financed about 56% of the total amount that he's raised. Individual investors are responsible for about 41% of his fund-raising. Pro Trump campaigns like Great America PAC and Rebuilding America PAC have together contributed $7 million in Trump's support.
Real estate has given the largest amount of donations to the Trump campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Outside groups have raised significant amounts opposing Trump. For example, Super-PAC, Our Principles PAC has raised about $19 million opposing him.
Trump is well-known for being frugal, and he has taken pride in winning the Republican nomination without the financial support that his opponents, most notable Ted Cruz received. His campaign staff is small by recent standards.
"I am getting bad marks from certain pundits because I have a small campaign staff," Trump tweeted in late spring. "But small is good, flexible, save money and number one!"
That approach, and the lack of outside support, seems likely to hurt his chances in November.