According to James Squires, Perot's spokesman, the Texas billionaire has never specified how much money he intends to spend in his quest for the presidency, even though he is sometimes inaccurately quoted as saying he would spend $100 million. Squires said Perot will spend whatever sum is necessary to win the election.
During March and April, the first two months after Perot organized a formal campaign organization, he contributed $1.26 million to the campaign.
Although Perot is not soliciting campaign contributions from others, Squires said, many people have been contributing voluntarily. Most of these were in-kind contributions, such as the loan of a car or free duplicating services provided to the campaign.
Squires said that Perot does not intend to cash any contribution check in excess of $5, even though he often receives checks for much larger amounts. In April, his campaign reported receiving 7,900 donations of $5 each.
By accepting $5 donations, experts said, Perot is trying to overcome one advantage that more traditional campaigns have on election day: Contributors are more motivated than other citizens to go to the polls and vote for the candidate of their choice.
Judging from the amount of money that was spent in the 1988 presidential race, Perot will need to spend far more than $100 million to be competitive with Bush and Clinton. In 1988, Bush's campaign had the benefit of GOP spending totaling $93.7 million. Democrats and other groups spent $106.5 million in an unsuccessful effort to elect Michael S. Dukakis.
In the 1992 general election, according to Alexander, total spending by both Bush and Clinton is likely to far exceed the spending in the 1988 race.
Both Bush and Clinton are slated to receive $55.2 million in public funds for their campaign and $10.3 million for their nominating conventions. In addition, both candidates are expected to benefit from more than $50 million in so-called soft-money and in-kind donations from special interest groups.
"If Perot is talking about spending $100 million, it will only make him competitive, it will not give him an advantage," said Alexander. "It's safe to say that Bush and Clinton are each going to easily have $100 million to spend or be spent on their behalf."
Unlike Bush or Clinton, however, Perot will have the ability to control how every dollar of his money is spent. Much of the money spent on behalf of the Democratic and Republican nominees will be under the control of the parties and other organizations.
At the same time, Alexander emphasized, Perot may be forced to spend more than the other candidates to finance a similar race because he will not have a nationwide party apparatus working on his behalf, as Clinton and Bush will.
No matter how much Perot spends, most experts insist that he will not be able to win the election simply by outspending his opponents. "If the public doesn't want Ross Perot," said one scholar, "I don't think you can actually buy an election."