The Cost of Campaigning in Rapid City, S.D.

Levitt and I had the pleasure of visiting Rapid City, S.D., recently to give a lecture. Yes, we had time to visit Mount Rushmore, a good time made all the better by our charismatic tour guide, National Park Service Superintendent Gerard Baker (Yellow Wolf), the very tall gentleman between us here:


We also had occasion to meet a phalanx of Rapid City notables, including Mayor Alan Hanks. The downside of his office, he said, is that he has to run for election every two years; among the upsides is that campaigning isn’t very expensive. He said it cost only $70,000 the last time around.

Considering that the mayor’s salary is about $95,000, that’s a pretty sweet ratio. Mayor Mike Bloomberg of New York spent $85 million last time around and receives only $1 in salary (although he’s entitled to $225,000); it cost Barack Obama $730 million to get elected, for a salary of just $400,000. In terms of R.O.I., Rapid City politics look like a pretty good deal.

Rendell de Kort

Shouldn't we consider the expectations of future income?
Surely presidents can expect to command significantly higher salaries once they are out of office...


How much money in those political races was put up by the candidate? If most of the money comes from donors in the case of Barak Obama, and the mayor ponies up his own cash, I'd say Obama's R.O.I. is better.


Mount Rushmore disgusts me on several levels.


Did you go to the Crazy Horse Monument while you were there? And the badlands? I almost regret that I won't be driving through SD on my next cross-country trip, it's usually my favorite part of the drive.


Even leaving aside the tax implications, paying $70,000 for a < 100% chance (even a shoo-in incumbent _might_ lose) at earning $190,000 over two years seems like kind of a crappy deal. I earn slightly more than that and don't have to pay anything for the privilege. Of course, politicians typically don't put up much of their own money, which makes it irrelevant how much they spend, as long as they can raise that amount, right?

Eric M. Jones

#3 - Grant "Mt Rushmore disgusts me on several levels."

And the Crazy Horse Monument in no way balances the desecration committed to Mt. Rushmore either. Neither Jefferson nor Lincoln (at least) would have appreciated it.

But hey, I could be wrong.


bloomberg is a charitable businessman, if charities are expected to spend 1% on running everything why should the mayor not get $1 and skim??

the Gooch

"Mount Rushmore disgusts me on several levels?"

Anonymous internet commenters disgust me on several levels.


The saturation of advertising elections implies that the campaigners have an understanding that the more advertising, the more likely people are to vote for them.

What a sad thing it is that some people are more likely to vote for someone purely because their face is seen everywhere. That in democracies, power can be bought (well, gambled for) in this way.

I vote for candidates with less advertising, ceteris parabus.

Mike Franz

If you guys find yourselves in Paris, France anytime soon, take a tour with me. I'm an American who's been guiding here with Fat Tire Bike Tours for the last 6 would love it, and I would be happy to show you this magnificent city.


This is why Mt Rushmore is in the heart of the US not in San Fran. People work, have families and enjoy life, not complain about national monuments. Get a productive hobby Grant.