Jimmy Carter didn’t hesitate when asked how he would feel about running for president today. “I couldn’t possibly do it, because I have very little money,” the 90-year-old said at a press conference during a recent visit to Wilkes-Barre. “And now it takes $200 million if you want any chance to get the Democratic or Republican nomination.” Since 1976, when Mr. Carter, a Democrat, became the 39th president of the United States, campaigns — and financing them — have changed dramatically. In the early 1970s, individuals and organizations were limited as to what they could contribute to political campaigns. But campaign financing has been reshaped over the past 40 years due to a series of U.S. Supreme Court decisions.
Now donors can contribute as much as they want to as many candidates as they want, and in each election cycle presidential candidates are finding the field more and more crowded — and expensive.
“When I ran against Gerald Ford, who was the incumbent president, you know how much money I raised?” Mr. Carter said to the media assembled in a room of the Mary Stegmaier Mansion.
“Zero,” Mr. Carter said. “And President Ford raised zero. And four years later when I ran against Ronald Reagan, zero. We didn’t raise any money. So we weren’t obligated to any special interest groups, and now, of course, very wealthy people are giving unlimited amounts of money, almost, because of the Supreme Court ruling on Citizens United.”