While the Democratic presidential candidates were bickering among themselves over accepting campaign contributions from lobbyists, a far more significant political development occurred: George W. Bush broke his own record for presidential fundraising. He hit $131 million as of the end of January. (In 2000 he raised $101 million for the entire race.) His campaign aides have said their goal is $170 million. But at the rate he’s going, Bush is on track to bag more than $200 million, perhaps even a quarter of a billion dollars. And all this is for a primary campaign in which he has no opponent. Bush will have to spend these funds before the GOP convention in September. That is when his campaign will get a check from the US Treasury for about $74 million, under the law that provides public funding to presidential candidates for the general election. Even though Bush has no rivals in his bid for the Republican nomination, he does have to face attacks from the Democrats. It is not unreasonable for him to raise some money for that. But $250 million? In politics–as in most walks of life–this is a mind-boggling sum. So we have crafted a few unorthodox measurements to place Bush’s pile of moola in perspective.

Bush could compensate 20,000 Enron workers for their loss in pension funds–but at only about 25-50 cents on the dollar. And Bush’s projected campaign total will nearly equal the amount Enron would have received from the retroactive corporate-tax rebate Bush tried (and failed) to enact after 9/11.

This is the cost of removing 23 million landmines in Egypt left over from World War II.

More than half of Bush’s treasure chest, as of December 8, had come from 29,803 (presumably well-to-do) contributors who had donated the maximum permissible amount of $2,000. This group is thirty times the size of the 1,000 new jobs created nationwide in December.

If the Bush campaign had wanted to spend all its cash in one shot, it could have purchased 108 thirty-second ads during the Super Bowl.

The Bush campaign could practically assume the payroll of both the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox.

Two hundred fifty million dollars would purchase enough body armor–including the necessary ceramic plates–for 166,666 GIs. As of January, the Pentagon had still not fully met the demand for body armor in Iraq.

It’s two and a half times the fine that Merrill Lynch, the single largest contributor to the Bush re-election campaign, paid state regulators for misleading stock-market investors. It’s fifty times the penalty that Price-waterhouseCoopers, Bush’s second-largest contributor, paid for violating auditor independence rules.

Bush’s 2004 take will be more than the combination of all the money Ronald Reagan, George Bush I and Bob Dole raised for their presidential campaigns from 1980 to 1996, adjusted for inflation.

It is equal to the amount of funds Bush’s new budget proposal cuts from the program that provides grants to firefighters for equipment needs.

If Bush raised $5,000 an hour–a good pace for most members of the Senate in an election year–and he did so twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week (a rate most senators don’t hit), it would take him 5.7 years to raise this much money. Fortunately for Bush, it takes only eighteen minutes of perfunctory remarks at a fundraiser to net several million dollars.

Bush’s campaign millions–laid out end to end as dollar bills–would reach 24,226 miles and stretch almost all the way around the world.

For 10,455 people, Bush could pay off their personal share of the national debt (the average liability: $23,911).

All this cash, in $100 bills, would weigh 5,115 pounds. On the Moon it would weigh 845 pounds; on Mars, 1,936 pounds.

This amount would pay for nearly 10,000 backstage grip-and-grin photos with the President, which are routinely held at Bush fundraisers (cost: $25,000 a shot, not counting film and developing).

The Bush campaign could buy Dick Cheney about 12 million pheasants to shoot.

This is more than four times the amount Halliburton overcharged the US government for fuel it delivered in Iraq.

This is about $40 million more than all the large contributions ($200 and up) to federal candidates and parties that come from ZIP codes in America where racial and ethnic minorities are in the majority.

With this much money, Bush could rent 3.3 million tuxedos. The whole state of Oklahoma could dress formal for a day.

It would finance the US occupation in Iraq for forty-two hours.

In search of so-called NASCAR Dad voters, Bush could sponsor close to two dozen NASCAR teams for a year.

Artist: RJ Matson