Federal campaigns — races for the House of Representatives, Senate, and the presidency — cost over $2 billion in the 1996 political cycle. State and local races cost an estimated $2 billion more. These spiraling costs often inspire calls to diminish the role of money in politics. To respond to these calls reformers must get behind these raw numbers and explore the complexities of how and where money flows in our political system. Understanding the various routes through which money travels is the necessary first step of any effort to diminish the role of money in our political system and restore integrity to the political process.