More than a hobby Lobby

AP US Government and Politics

How much $ was spent to lobby the U.S. government in 2016?

Center for Responsive Politics

AP US Government and Politics

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. Surprised?

  3. What adjective best describes the amount of money spent on lobbying?

  4. If you were to buy pizzas with the money spent on lobbying Congress in 2016, and each pizza cost $12, how many pizzas could you buy?

  5. Is all this lobbying legal?

  6. Who makes the rules about the legality of lobbying?

  7. Who benefits from this lobbying?

  8. Who doesn't benefit from this lobbying?

  9. Some lobbyists work for groups like the Red Cross, the Sierra Club, or the National Educators Association! Others work for weapon manufacturers, golfers associations, or tobacco companies. Overall, do you think that lobbyists have a positive impact on US politics?

  10. What big story does the data tell?

  11. Why do you think spending on lobbying has doubled in less than 20 years?

  12. What is the most important consequence of all this money spent on lobbying?

  13. How specifically does lobbying affect elections in the US?

  14. What do lobbyists actually do?

  15. If you were to become a lobbyist, what group or company would you want to lobby for?

  16. Imagine that lobbying and lobbyists were outlawed. How would the US political system most change because of this?

  17. Based on your knowledge of the American political system, Respond to the following Claim: the data from the chart good news. The people with the money to pay for lobbyists are smart and hardworking and they should be able to translate that into political power. Anybody who wants political power can have it if they are willing to work for it.

  18. Why do these groups and businesses spend all this money to lobby the government?

  19. What group spent the most money on lobbying in 2016 and how much did they spend?*

  20. What sector of industry spent the most on lobbying in 2016?**

  21. in Federalist No. 10 James Madison wrote about factions which he warned could undermine the union of the whole. he wrote: “By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.” Based on this quote and your knowledge of Federalist No. 10, what would Madison say about lobbyists and their impact on the union of the whole?

Take our Survey
Lobbying makes America more democratic.

Learning Extension

Read the report and check out the groovy graphs and charts about lobbyists, money and politics from Open Secrets!

Bonus Chart*

Bonus Chart**

Pug in a Sweater Extension

AP Pugament and Pugatics

AP Pugament and Pugatics

Our World In Data Extension

Animals in Clothes Extension

To the big spender go the big spoils

How often did the higher spending candidate win in the 2018 election?

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. Describe one trend from the data?

  3. What do you think explains that trend?

  4. What is one consequence of this trend?

  5. Make a claim about whether this is good or bad news.

  6. One might argue or claim that the person with the most money should win the election, because people with better ideas raise more money. And if a candidate can’t raise much money they must not have very good or viable ideas. How would you respond to this claim?

  7. Why do you think money matters more in the House than the Senate?

  8. It was rare, but occasionally the bigger spender lost an election. How do you explain these rare and infrequent upsets?

  9. What is most of the money in elections actually spent on?

  10. Claim: almost 90% of the time, the higher spending candidate wins. This is exactly as the Framers would have wanted because they never once used the word “democracy” in the Constitution and support political equality. Respond to the claim, using your knowledge of the American political system.

  11. Describe how the typical conservative and liberal would explain the trend from the data.

  12. Do you think there are any other factors more likely to predict victory than the amount of money a candidate spent?

  13. WHICH RAceS in the 2018 elections DO YOU THINK SPENT THE MOST MONEY?*


Visual Extension*

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Learning Extension

Read the entire report and check out all the cool charts from Open Secrets and the Center for Responsive Politics.

Action Extension



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Costs and Benefits of Election Costs

What was the total cost of the 2018 midterm election, and was it the most expensive U.S. congressional campaign in the history of the entire freaking world>>>????

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  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. How does the 2018 midterm election rank in the history of expensive midterm elections?

  3. What trend do you see in the data?

  4. Why do you think that is?

  5. What is one consequence of that?

  6. Is that a good thing?

  7. Which party do you think outspent the other: the Democrats or Republicans?*

  8. How familiar do you think the average American is with this data?

  9. How do you think this level of spending impacts American voter turnout?

  10. Based on the data in the charts above, make a prediction of the cost of the 2020 presidential election and the 2022 midterm election.

  11. What percent of the campaign donations came from the top 1% wealthiest Americans.*

  12. Imagine that you were opposed to money in politics. One thing you could do would be to not give money to politicians. But let’s say a politician who was opposed to money in politics was running for office against a politician who accepted tons of money from very wealthy donors. Would you give that anti-money in politics politician money so that they could beat their plutocratic opponent?

  13. Here is a claim: High levels of spending in elections show a high level of citizen interest and participation in elections, and strengthens our democracy. Respond to the claim with at least one piece of evidence from today’s class starter and one piece of information you have leaned from your study of American government and politics.

  14. Imagine that the Federal Election Commission made a rule* that limited each House and Senate candidate to spending no more than $1 per constituent. (I realize the rule would be unconstitutional, and it’s not going to happen - just humor me) How would that impact politics?

  15. Would you support that rule?

  16. What role could the Congress, Executive branch (bureaucracy), and Supreme Court play in stopping that proposal?

  17. Describe how they following would respond to the above proposed spending limit:

  • Interest Groups

  • Political Parties

  • Media

  • Congress

  • The Supreme Court

  • Tiffany Haddish

  • James Madison

  • Dr. Martin Luther King

Visual Extension*

Learning Extension of Pisa

Read the entire report and check out all the cool charts from Open Secrets and the Center for Responsive Politics.

Action Extension

Follow this step-by-step guide to calling your (well funded) congressional representative and let them know what you think about the level of money in politics and what they should do about it. Share the highlights of your conversation in class or online.

Therapy Pet Extravaganza Extension

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Self Funded Election

In 2016, what was the chance that a self-funded candidate in a federal race (candidates who put at least $500,000 into their runs) won their campaign?*

You can see the entire list at Open Secrets

*12.5% overall

  1. How accurate was your prediction?               

  2. How surprised are you by this information?

  3. Is this good news?

  4. What is the big story this data tells?

  5. Why do you think that is?

  6. What is one consequence of politicians self-funding their own campaigns?

  7. Do you think that self-funding is good for democracy?

  8. What would Thomas Jefferson (Anti-federalist) and Alexander Hamilton (Federalist) say about self-funded campaigns?

  9. Are you surprised that Trump self-funded about 20% of his campaign?

  10. Are you surprised that Hillary Clinton funded over $1.5 million of her campaign?

  11. Had Trump not self funded over $60 million of his run do you think he would have won?

  12. Why do you think that almost 88% of self-funders lost election, but Donald Trump won his?

  13. In the future do you think there will be more self-funded elections?

  14. I taught a student in 2004 whose father spent $2 million of his own dollars to run for the US House of Representatives. He didn't even win the primary. What advice would you give him?

  15. All the 6 self-funded campaigns that won in 2016 were first-time campaigners. Why do you think that is?

  16. Let's imagine that you had tons of money: specifically, $58 million dollars in the bank. Would you spend $1 million to buy, I mean run for a US House seat?

Learning Extension

Read the Open Secrets report on 2016 self-funded campaigns, while supplies last.

Action Extension

Borrow $66 million from Donald Trump to run for president. If that doesn't work, ask 10 people to estimate how much of their own money Clinton and Trump spent on their campaigns and compare the results to reality. Post your findings online or share them in class.

Stupid Bonus Charts and Maps

Election 2016 Cost

AP U.S. Government and Politics

Within the nearest billion, how much $ was spent on the 2016 elections?


AP U.S. Government and Politics

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. What most surprised you about this data?

  3. What trend do you see in the data?

  4. Why do you think that is?

  5. What is one consequence of this?

  6. What is the primary effect of this over $7billion being spent in this year's elections?

  7. Who is all this spending good for?

  8. Who is this bad for?

  9. Overall, is this good or bad news for democracy?

  10. Does all this money help us become more educated, informed, or wise in our political choices?

  11. What are some other positive ways $7billion could be spent?

  12. Where does most of this campaign spending go?

  13. What questions do you have about this data?

  14. Did you or your family donate in this year's elections?

  15. Which cost more, presidential or congressional races?

  16. What American elections are not even included in this data?

  17. If you were queen or king for the day and could set any limit on campaign spending, explain what spending limit you would set:

  18. As the amount of money spent on elections increases, the percentage people voting decreases. Explain this paradox:

  19. What would be two possible ways to decrease the amount of money in elections?

  20. How different do you think this year's presidential election would have been had there been a strict limit on campaign spending?

  21. Based on this chart, how much money would you project will be spent in the 2020 elections?

Learning Extension

Scroll through Open Secret's detailed charts and graphs to get a good idea of the total impact of money in presidential politics.

Action Extension

Here's a list from Bill Moyers of 8 things you could do to help get money OUT of politics.

And here's a list from me of 1 thing you could do to help get money INTO politics: give money to a candidate!

Read these lists and do one of the things! Share your action on social media or in class.

Bonus Chart