One billion dollars.  The number seems to keep cropping up this presidential election.  First it was former FEC Chairman Michael Toner who suggested that combined spending between the two major candidates could surpass one billion dollars.  Now it’s reported that NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg is planning to spend that much on an independent bid for the presidency.

John Lott has written an article discussing Bloomberg’s potential run and the role that campaign finance regulation has played in the rise of mega-rich candidates.  As Lott explains, part of the reason why "123 out of 435 members of congress" earned at least one million dollars last year can be attributed to contribution limits:

Wealthy candidates avoid spending time asking already loyal supporters for small amounts of money. They can avoid the massive cost of mailings to raise money from the already converted and concentrate on mailings to those who haven’t made up their minds yet. The candidates themselves can spend their time talking to undecided voters.

"The ultimate irony," concludes Lott, "is that in trying to get money out of politics, reformers have made it easier for those with money to get in."

The Center for Competitive Politics is now the Institute for Free Speech.