Billion Dollar campaign

With under a week until Election Day, nearly $1.9 billion has been raised, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The money’s been funneled to a dizzying array of firms, from consultants to apparel manufacturers. (The Washington Post reports Donald Trump’s campaign spent more on hats than on polling.)

Seven presidential candidates; Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, and Jeb Bush, cover combined spending of just over $1 billion. (The data for Clinton and Trump should be considered approximate due to lags in FEC reporting and processing as their campaigns are still ongoing.).


Media buys, production and placements account for 42% ($429 million) of candidates’ total spending. More than half went to two Beltway firms: $140 million to GMMB by Clinton’s campaign and $83 million to Old Towne Media by Sanders’. Meanwhile, Trump paid his top marketing firm, Giles-Parscale, over $41 million.


Candidates continue to spend on research, modelling and data management, totaling 14% ($141 million) of overall spending. The majority comes from Republicans: Trump spent $33 million, followed by Cruz at $31 million and Carson at $27 million. Cruz and Carson both spent more on consulting than on actual media.

Direct Mail

Evangelical candidates Cruz and Carson also spent heavily on direct mail — by a lot. The category includes printing and postage, which Cruz and Carson shelled out was at proportions two to three times higher than the amount the other five the candidates spent combined.


Trump and Bush are top spenders for airfare and lodging. Travel is roughly 13% of each of their overall spending, compared to other candidates’ 6-8%. Trump paid $6.7 million to his own Tag Air and $6.6 million to Private Jet Services. Bush paid $1.4 million to Air Charter Team and $430,000 to American Airlines.


Clinton spent $62 million — 19% of her total. Others averaged 12%. She leads the pack with 54 staffers who have each been paid at least $100,000 since the campaign started. Cruz follows with 12. Clinton also paid herself nearly $1.2 million in “Payroll and Benefits.” Reports suggest these are in-kind donations.


The other category refers to any campaign spending that doesn’t fit into one of the above categories. The main constituents are credit card payments and merchant fees, campaign merchandise, office rent, and fees associated with events.

Across all candidates, about 18% of all spending falls into this category. Sanders had $56 million of “other” spend, followed by Clinton with $53 million and Trump with $40 million. The single greatest payee was Ace Specialities, which received $12.2 million by Trump’s campaign, mostly for expenses labeled as “Collateral: T-Shirts / Mugs / Stickers / Freight.” Second is Act Blue Technical Services, which was paid $7.8 million by Sanders for “Merchant Fees,” followed by Markham Productions, which was paid $7.2 million by the Clinton campaign for “Event Production.”

Where does the money go?

For the seven presidential candidates analyzed, $1.03 billion in campaign spending flowed to more than 19,000 unique recipients. These range from Clinton’s preferred political consulting firm GMMB, which received nearly $140 million, to Starbucks-DFW, which received $2.25 from Cruz’s campaign.

We can plot 565 recipients (mostly organizations, some individuals) who each received at least $100,000 from one of the campaigns. Collectively they received $775 million (75% of all spending), with a strong clustering of recipients in the Northeast corridor and DC area.

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