Buying of the President

Published — February 21, 2016

Numbers to know about the 2016 presidential race

New financial filings filled with curiosities, surprises


Saturday didn’t just play host to Democrats’ Nevada caucus and Republicans’ South Carolina primary.

Federal rules also required presidential candidates — and the legion of super PACs that support them — to reveal and detail their income and spending during January.

Raise money they have: Candidates and their allied groups have collectively spent more than $700 million so far competing in the 2016 White House race.

But some fared better than others. Here’s a rundown of the more curious statistics to emerge:

$4.38 million: What Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sandersspent in January on his campaign’s payroll alone — part of $34 million in overall expenditures last month. Republican front-runner Donald Trump’scampaign payroll? Less than one-tenth that of Sanders’ organization.

$3.5 million: Value of contribution on Jan. 11 from billionaire hedge funder James Simons to Priorities USA Action, the main super PAC backing Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton. The money helped boost the super PAC’s cash-on-hand figure to almost $45 million through January — and gives Sanders’ new rhetorical fuel for his argument that Clinton is beholden to Wall Street.

$1,590,423: The pittance, by presidential candidate standards, that former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s campaign raised in January. That’s about one-fifth what fellow Republican White House hopeful Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas raised for the month.

$1,078,875: Debt owed by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s defunct presidential campaign, as of Jan. 31. More than 40 creditors are awaiting payment from Walker’s technically-still-active committee, including Google Inc., Koch brothers-backed data firm i360 and telemarketing operation FLS Connect LLC. Walker, who suspended his presidential bid in September, has taken to selling “sturdy and attractive” coffee mugs to clear his campaign’s financial obligations. Several dozen people made debt-slashing contributions of more than $200 in January, including various members of the DeVos family — storied GOP megadonors whose patriarch, Richard, co-founded Amway and owns the Orlando Magic.

$424,955: What Republican Rick Santorum’s presidential campaign collectively owed vendors on the eve of the Iowa caucuses. These consultants, fundraisers and data workers in part have themselves to blame, though: Santorum’s 2012 presidential campaign remains more than $450,000 in debt.

$372,809: Amount of money pro-Bush super PAC Right to Rise USA raised in January. It proved to be a disastrous development for the group, which raised more than $117 million last year but could do little more than burn through its once-prodigious reserve as Bush’s campaign flailed — and, on Saturday night, ended.

$250,000: That’s how much the pro-Cruz super PAC Stand for Truth collected in January from a California-based limited liability company called Children of Israel LLC. Formed in June 2015, Children of Israel LLC donated $150,000last year to Pursuing America’s Greatness, the super PAC that supported Republican Mike Huckabee’s failed presidential bid. Reached by the Center for Public Integrity, Shaofen “Lisa” Gao, a real estate agent who is listed on state records as the LLC’s registered agent, declined to discuss the company or its political contributions. “I don’t want to make any comment,” she said.

$204,000: What Trump’s campaign spent during January producing hats, many emblazoned with Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again.” (They sell for $25 a pop on the campaign’s website.) The campaign spent another $708,000 on other swag: t-shirts, mugs, stickers and related freight.

$99,889: Cash that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton herself contributedher campaign in January — part of more than $468,000 she’s contributed since last year.

$32,907: Amount American Crossroads, the Karl Rove-backed granddaddy of super PACs, raised during January. Despite its meager haul, the group still has about $2.9 million in the bank and may accept unlimited donations at any juncture.

$2,700: Amount self-styled “green Republican” Trammell S. Crow, son of Dallas real estate tycoon Trammell Crow, contributed on Jan. 26 to Democrat Martin O’Malley’s presidential campaign. O’Malley quit the race on Feb. 1.

$1,000: The amount some Nevada prostitutes are reportedly asking clients to donate to Clinton’s campaign in exchange for … extra services. Legal? Maybe so: It could fall under a volunteer services exception to campaign finance law, said Kenneth Gross, a political law attorney and former chief of the Federal Election Commission’s enforcement decision. But matters get complicated. If the prostitute is working for a corporation — say, a bunny ranch — the value of her time and use of corporate facilities could be considered an improper in-kind corporate contribution to the Clinton campaign. If her employer isn’t coordinating with the campaign “the Citizens United ruling would kick in allowing unlimited corporate independent expenditures,” Gross says. “That would be legal, but the corporation would have to report the value of services since soliciting campaign contributions for the services provided would likely constitute express advocacy.” Moral of the story? Campaign finance law applies to everything.

309: Number of people, couples or entities — Hillblazers, if you will — that have raised at least $100,000 for Clinton’s campaign, as of Jan. 31. Bold-faced names include Vogue editor Anna Wintour, lobbyist Heather Podesta, media mogul Fred Eychaner and Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes.

16: Number of days after its formation that a company called “Decor Services LLC,” which materialized Jan. 12, contributed $250,000 to the pro-Chris Christie super PAC America Leads. As the Center for Public Integrity has previously reported, limited liability companies formed in Delaware are essentially black boxes. The only name connected to Decor Services LLC in public records is the Wilmington-based Corporation Service Company, a firm that serves as a registered agent for thousands of corporate entities. Campaign finance rules say contributions cannot be made in the name of another. Thus, companies cannot be created solely to mask individuals’ political giving. Is that what happened here? “There is definitely reason to believe the law has been violated,” said Paul S. Ryan, an attorney at the Campaign Legal Center. “The Campaign Legal Center will likely file a complaint on this.” Christie exited the race after the New Hampshire primary.

$0: What GOP megadonor Sheldon Adelson gave to presidential super PACs in January — much to the chagrin of candidates who’d love the billionaire casino mogul’s aid.

-$16,339: Net cash Huckabee’s campaign had (or didn’t) the night before the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses, in which the Republican vowed to “finish first.” Huckabee finished ninth. He dropped out that night.

Chris Zubak-Skees and Alexander Cohen contributed to this report.

Read more in Money and Democracy

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