Darren Richardson

Sept. 2, 2012

Psychiatric professionals sometimes use a word association test to measure an individual’s grasp on reality, or at least what passes for consensual reality. If the psychiatrist says “hat,” for example, a sane person might reply with “head” or “cap” or any number of easily understandable leaps of connectivity.

When it comes to the word “politics,” no one would think you were crazy if the first word that came to mind was “money.”

The 2012 election cycle is on pace to be the most expensive in American history, with the Center for Responsive Politics projecting that an estimated $5.8 billion will be raised and spent by the time Americans go to the polls Nov. 6. That’s about 7 percent more than the $5.4 billion cost of the 2008 election cycle. The center says that about $2.5 billion of that amount will be at the presidential level.

A new factor for the 2012 cycle is the growth of the so-called super PACs resulting from the 2010 Citizens United ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. Super PACs can spend unlimited amounts on behalf of or in opposition to a candidate, just as long as the people behind the super PAC do not consult with a given candidate’s campaign staff. According to the center, at least $750 million of the $5.8 billion projected spending will be from outside sources like super PACs.

To provide a sense of perspective, a grand total of a "mere" $192.2 million was the total amount spent by all presidential candidates in 1992, according to a usnews.com report from 2008.

With that in mind, and without making any judgments on whether the dramatic rise in political spending is a good thing, a bad thing, or both, The American Pundit political writing contest is asking writers to weigh in with their opinions between now and 11:59 p.m. PDT on Sept. 15:

This Writing Assignment gives writers a theme instead of a specific question: Money in Politics. You can take it from there.

The author(s) of the best response(s) will earn a $250 bonus and and will be eligible for the $5,000 grand prize, to be awarded after the November elections. At least one winner on this topic will be chosen from articles submitted during the first half of September. In general, submissions should be 400 to 1,000 words.

You may not have the money to add to the ever-growing total being spent this election cycle, but if you have the time to share your thoughts, Allvoices would love to hear what you have to say. If you don’t already have an Allvoices account, you can sign up here: http://www.allvoices.com/write_now

If you like to write about U.S. politics and Campaign 2012, enter "The American Pundit" competition. Allvoices is awarding four $250 prizes each month between now and November. These monthly winners earn eligibility for the $5,000 grand prize, to be awarded after the November election.