According to Russell Brand:

Screencast with Russell Brand

Every election in American history has been won by the party with the most money to campaign.

Let's assume that he means every presidential election. Has every presidential election in U.S. history been won by the party with the most money to campaign?

Edit: To make this question answerable, let's stick to elections recent enough where campaign financing is publicly available.

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    Beware of precedents xkcd.com/1122 – Linkyu Feb 20 '15 at 3:40
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    Given the complexity of campaign finance, and the many entities contributing and spending money, how do you propose to define how much money a party "has" to campaign? – Nate Eldredge Feb 20 '15 at 4:55
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    @SteveJessop I'm pretty sure the whole proposal is a joke. You did pick that up, right? – fredsbend Feb 20 '15 at 10:40
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    This is difficult to answer unless specified cleanly. For example, the NYT has a breakdown of the 2012 presidential election. Obama (as a candidate) raised and spent more than Romney did, but the Republican party spent more than the Democratic party, and the PAC situation muddles it up even more. Adding it up, Obama's "side" raised a bit more than Romney's, but spent a bit less (if you agree with the NYT: Open Secrets has different numbers due to the grey areas involved). How do we interpret this? – Is Begot Feb 20 '15 at 14:22
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    There's also the question of correllation vs. causation. It seems likely that the more popular candidate--the one who will eventually win--will be able to raise more donations by virtue of his popularity. – KSmarts Feb 24 '15 at 23:00

No, it isn't true.

The most clear example is 1964.

According to "Presidential Elections: Strategies and Structures of American Politics" at page 65:

Barry Goldwater's losing campaign spent $17.2 million, significantly more than Johnson's $12 million expenditure

The book references the statement to: Herbert E. Alexander and Harold B. Meyers, “The Switch in Campaign Giving,” Fortune, November 1965, 103–8.

Another source has the following list and says it is from New York magazine but independently verified (winners are in bold, the second candidate spent more):

John F. Kennedy: $9.8 million
Richard Nixon: $10.1 million

Lyndon Johnson: $8.8 million
Barry Goldwater: $16 million

Hubert Humphrey: $11.6 million
Richard Nixon: $25.4 million

George McGovern: $30 million
Richard Nixon: $61.4 million

Jimmy Carter: $33.4 million
Gerald Ford: $35.8 million

1980 Jimmy Carter: $49 million
Ronald Reagan: $57.7 million

Walter Mondale: $66.7 million
Ronald Reagan: $67.5 million

Michael Dukakis: $77.3 million
George H.W. Bush: $80 million

George H.W. Bush: $92.6 million
Bill Clinton: $92.9 million

Bill Clinton: $108.5 million
Bob Dole: $110.2 million

Al Gore: $127.1 million
George W. Bush: $172.1 million

John Kerry: $328.5 million
George W. Bush: $367.2 million

John McCain: $350.1 million
Barack Obama: $745.7 million

While there are a few other example in the list of the losing candidate spending slightly more, 1964 is the only clear example of the losing candidate spending significantly more.

From another point of view, Ross Perot certainly could have outspent Clinton and Dole if he wanted to.

Update 2016: according to What Trump and Hillary Spent vs Every General Election Candidate Since 1960 the following is spending by each candidate in real dollars from 1960-2016:

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The Federal Election Commission says Clinton 563.9 million, Trump 328.4 million.

  • @georgechalhoub The book cites to the article "The switch in campaign giving" Fortune, November 1965, pages 103-108 by Alexander and Meyers. – DavePhD Mar 28 '15 at 15:29
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    and interestingly enough, in many cases the difference is small, even within error margins. Also, remember that the figures aren't always accurate. Some funding may be used for other things, not used at all, some campaigns may have unreported funds, people putting in private money that's not in the books (think someone using their private ATM or credit card to pay for lunch or gas during a road trip rather than campaign funds). – jwenting Apr 1 '15 at 4:19
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    Now Trump can be added to the list of counter-examples. – Andrew Grimm Nov 13 '16 at 0:03
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    @AndrewGrimm yes, I will add – DavePhD Nov 13 '16 at 0:34
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    @jwenting Not on the campaign itself, but if you assume influence to be proportional to wealth, then being richer than your opponent could still be contribute to your chances to be elected. I agree that this answer does not quite fit the question. As a final remark, speaking of statistical significance when comparing two numbers which are not means and do not come out of any well-defined population is nonsensical. – Erik Nov 14 '16 at 8:45

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