According to the U.S. Federal Election Commission's website, as of July 10, 2023 the two candidates for U.S. President who have raised the most money are Lee Mercer (D), at $192 million, and John Anthony Castro, at $20 million. The third and fourth highest-fundraising candidates are Donald Trump (R) and Joe Biden (D), respectively.

I think it's safe to say that there is something "weird" going on here, and the FEC web site is not listing true campaign donations according to the straightforward and commonsense meaning of the term.

What exactly do the numbers reported on the FEC website mean? Are these just personal loans to "paper" campaigns or something? If so, is there any verification mechanism that the candidate actually has that much money?

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    Indeed, candidate contributions to their own campaigns are not subject to any limit. I suppose these are independently wealthy candidates with vanity campaigns.
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Jul 11, 2023 at 1:41
  • @Obie2.0 I think there must be more to the story than this. If Lee Mercer were indeed lending himself $192 million for an actual campaign, then he would be in the public awareness, like Michael Bloomberg was in the 2020 election. And aren't you not legally allowed to spend campaign funds for personal reasons? Where are the Lee Mercer campaign ads? Commented Jul 11, 2023 at 12:20
  • Ah, if only we still lived in that innocent world free of the Lee Mercer campaign ads. He promised to bring us an AI for president because Jeb Bush had a disease and was in his house.
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Jul 11, 2023 at 23:01
  • Although perhaps he was ahead of his time with that first campaign promise.
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Jul 11, 2023 at 23:08

1 Answer 1


The FEC corrected its prior report from July 10, 2023, and as of October 30, 2023, Castro is now shown has having raised $678.00, and Mercer is now shown as having raised $0.00.

The previous entries were erroneous for some reason, and have been corrected.

  • Uh, that is a ... large error. Seems to me that that might be getting into "Congressional hearings to determine how the FEC could have possibly messed that one up so badly" territory. Commented Nov 6, 2023 at 22:38
  • @VeryTinyBrain More likely a bad user interface and/or people deliberately trying to enter inaccurate information into the system to screw with it.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Nov 6, 2023 at 22:41
  • No doubt, but the FEC should have checks in place to prevent those misuses. So IMO this is a still a huge screwup on their part. Commented Nov 6, 2023 at 22:43
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    @VeryTinyBrain You'd be surprised at what counts as "bold reform" in Washington D.C. The status quo is unreasonably powerful there. The IRS is using 1960s and 1970s software in some cases. The nuclear weapon silos of the U.S. military used 5.25" floppy disks running on CRT character only screens with DOS until a few year ago. The Social Security Trust Fund is on a 1980s computer attached to a dot matrix printer in a closet in the Treasury Department's headquarters building.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Nov 6, 2023 at 22:56
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    @VeryTinyBrain: I think it's worth noting that "Fixing a user interface issue" is not an FEC-specific issue - it's more likely tied to their tool, which is probably complex enough as it is; it handled 1404 candidates, and receipts and disbursements, and likely someone confused one of the people with "Lee" in their name for a given donation, and didn't catch which candidate it was for. 6 people with the name "John" had receipts processed for them too. That and a digit issue would be something that could be easily missed when processing a lot of data - presumably with some manual checks. Commented Mar 22 at 5:56

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