Dollar Logic

The crazy, upside-down world of campaign spending


A ccording to Dec. 21, 2007 figures, here’s how the top candidates in the Democratic and Republican primaries are spending their—and your—money.

Hillary Clinton

Last year, the Clinton campaign shelled out large for strategist Mark Penn, paying him some $1,860,611. Clinton’s other biggest expenditure? Donation refunds, to the tune of $1,778,494. Shame on you, Norman Hsu. Clinton had to return some $850,000 as Hsu prepares to go to prison on felony charges.

Clinton’s PR spending broke down to $3.8 million by year’s end, the majority of which, 56 percent, was spent on “other.” Of the rest, 16 percent went to Internet campaigning, on which she spent $204,000 to build her website when your kid could have done it for $199,000 less and only spent $406 on print media.

John Edwards

No news here. Edwards’ disastrously expensive haircut appears on his year-end statement, with Torrenueva Hair Designs, Beverly Hills (listed under “Political Consultants”), coming in at a sharp $800. Edwards also spent $346 for office supplies from Iowa Prison Industries.

The Edwards campaign spent $4.1 million on PR efforts in 2007, with 59 percent for telemarketing/direct mail and the teeniest 4 percent for Internet presence. Edwards paid former Howard Dean manager Joe Trippi a weirdly small $65,000 stipend (see Axelrod’s six figures for the Obama campaign) while blogger Amanda Marcotte got the web .02 rate: $1,500.

Rudy Giuliani

Mr. Nine Eleven lavished some $3.8 million on the Karl Rove-related consulting firm of Olsen & Shuvalov and somehow went all Ahab on the Moby Dick Airways, spending $288,448 for their air services. For PR purposes, Guiliani had spent $2.7 million by the end of 2007, of which a whopping $208,000 was spent on photography.

Mike Huckabee

These two campaign expenditures read like an Arkansas poem:

Mattress King: $963;

Christian Party Rental: $846.

Duncan Hunter


“Flag Expense: $764.”


Alan Keyes

We had to look up information on this moral conservative from Texas who liberally uses ancient Ronald Reagan quotes to support his campaign. In 2007, Keyes mostly had to give money back, making donation refunds totaling $25,302, some 54 percent of his campaign’s total expenditure.

John McCain

McCain spent a total of $2.8 million on PR last year, with the majority of it (66 percent) going to telemarketing and direct mail efforts. Just 16 percent of his money was extended to media consultants, 12 percent to “other” and a mere 6 percent given to online marketing.

Barack Obama

In 2007, Obama paid former John Kerry consultants GMMB a whopping $3,518,225, while political strategist David Axelrod commanded $704,630 to help the campaign. The stress must have gotten to our man, which would explain the expenditure to Blue Turtle Yoga for $20.

Obama spent $9 milllion on PR activities in 2007, with 40 percent of that devoted to telemarketing/direct mail and 37 percent to broadcast advertising. The remaining monies were spent on the Internet (10 percent), to media consultants (8 percent) and the ubiquitous “other” (5 percent). Obama paid Google $193,000 for online advertising and was the candidates’ top broadcast spender, expending some $3,280,000 on TV and radio messages.

Ron Paul

The Liberatarian from Texas actually and truly spent campaign monies in 2007 on such as “Peters Cut Rate Liquor: $259” and “DJ Dad/MC Mom, Cedar Rapids, Iowa: $100.” Who could make that up? No wonder he’s such a hit with the frat crowd.

Mitt Romney

Romney makes one’s own personal gaffes seem easy to pull off, particularly after one learns that he easily spent $114,528 on photography—including $4,358 for framing—last year from his campaign funds. And meanwhile, the family that travels together never makes it out of the Republican primary together, as proven by the $61,436 spent on an RV for Romney’s five sons.

As with Clinton, an enormous amount of Romney’s PR spending (62 percent) went to the amorphous “other” category. Spending only 1 percent on media consultants, Romney spent $17.7 million last year on PR, including $614,000 on those horrendous robo-calls.

Fred Thompson

Like McCain, Thompson focused his promotional expenditures the old-fashioned way, with some 51 percent of $1.9 million spent in 2007 going to telemarketing/direct mail. His campaign rented mailing lists from the Florida GOP ($1000,000) and Students for Life ($650), which makes renting out lists sound like a very lucrative pastime. But Thompson’s most interesting 2007 expenditure was for $13,082 to the Sentimental Journeys limousine company, auspiciously named, as it turns out, as that’s what the campaign was for Thompson.

Stats reprinted with permission from the January 2008 ‘Primary Colors’ issue of ‘Mother Jones’ magazine.

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