Bloomberg Spends Record Amount on Campaign in Fourth Quarter
(Bloomberg) -- Michael Bloomberg spent $188 million for his Democratic presidential campaign in the fourth quarter last year, more than doubling the spending record for any presidential candidate in a year before voting starts.
That amount included $132 million in television advertising, $8.2 million on digital ads, $3.3 million on polling, $1.5 million on rent, and $757,000 on airfare, including $646,000 for a private plane, according to the campaign and a report filed with the Federal Election Commission.
Bloomberg’s total ad spending now tops $300 million.
Bloomberg, who is self-financing his campaign, gave it $200 million last year, his report shows. That far exceeded fund-raising by other campaigns in the fourth quarter, including the $154 million that President Donald Trump and his allied committees took in.
Bloomberg’s spending in an off-year is more than double the record set by Mitt Romney in 2007, who entered the race in April of that year and spent $87.6 million in his unsuccessful bid for the 2008 Republican nomination. Romney, now a senator from Utah, put $35.4 million of his own money into that effort.
Besides ad spending, Bloomberg has spent heavily to hire staff and open offices. At the end of this filing period, the campaign said it had about 150 employees. It now has more than 1,000, including more than 700 in 35 states.
“Our first month’s filing represents a down payment and commitment in all 50 states to defeat Donald Trump, and it shows we have the resources and plan necessary to take him on,” Kevin Sheekey, Bloomberg’s campaign manager, said in a statement.
The campaign made a $14 million “pre-payment” to Bloomberg LP for use of the company’s plane, reimbursement of salaries for employees who have joined the campaign and other expenses. In its FEC report, the campaign did not itemize charges against the payment, instead listing items like a $1.2 million charge for “strategic and administrative consulting.” The campaign is also paying for the use of Bloomberg terminals. The filing shows about $50,000 in charges for them.
Larry Noble, a former general counsel at the FEC, said the arrangement is problematic but becoming more common. He says Trump did the same thing in his 2016 campaign, paying his company, the Trump Organization, for services without providing more detail on the expenditures. “If what they’re doing is paying for their staff through the company, they should still be reporting the salaries,” he said.
Julie Wood, a Bloomberg campaign spokesman, responded, “We don’t believe the FEC requires us to do that.”
Friday was the deadline for presidential campaigns to file year-end reports detailing contributions and spending for the fourth quarter of 2019. Bloomberg announced his entry into the 2020 race on Nov. 24.
Bloomberg is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.
The spending has helped Bloomberg rise to fourth in the RealClearPolitics average of national polls behind Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, though still at less than 10%. Because of his late start, the former New York mayor is skipping the first four nominating contests in February and focusing on the states voting March 3 on so-called Super Tuesday and beyond.
Bloomberg is the biggest spender among campaigns with an unprecedented $301 million in expenditures so far, according to Advertising Analytics, which tracks political commercials. That includes $238 million spent on broadcast television, with $29 million of that amount spent on national buys. He’s also spent $15.7 million on cable, $3.2 million on radio and $44.3 million on digital.
By comparison, Trump’s campaign has spent $25.8 million on ads since the beginning of last year, including $14.4 million on broadcast. A joint fund-raising committee supporting him has spent an additional $24.7 million on digital ads.
The campaign said it spent $12 million last year on Hawkfish LLC, the digital advertising startup that Bloomberg founded and is the campaign’s primary digital agency and technology services provider. It said it also spent $679,000 on furnished, temporary housing for campaign staff.
Even if he doesn’t win the nomination, Bloomberg has pledged to keep “a chunk” of his staff working and major offices open until the November election to defeat Trump. He has not ruled out spending as much as $1 billion if necessary but said “hopefully not” that much.
Democratic rival Pete Buttigieg was asked Friday whether there should be a limit on how much individuals can spend on their own campaigns with Bloomberg’s spending, and he said “that has to be on the table” with campaign finance reform efforts.
“What we’re seeing right now is this suggestion that someone can literally buy their way into competition,” Buttigieg said.
Bloomberg’s spending has also drawn criticism from rivals including Warren and Sanders, who complain about billionaires trying to “buy” elections. The former New York mayor has said he spending money he earned, and that his rivals had the same opportunity but are using funds from contributors who “expect something from them.”
“I’m spending a lot of money to try to replace Donald Trump,” Bloomberg said at a December campaign stop in Alabama. “And for people that don’t want me to do that, I guess they want to keep Donald Trump as president because if you want to get him out there, you should hope I spend even more.”
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