Obama the Campaign Spender
What is he spending it on?


Jim Geraghty

Neither fundraising nor spending for the 2012 presidential race is developing as expected. Already GOP challenger Mitt Romney has out-raised incumbent President Obama in May; the Obama campaign, once boasting of a billion-dollar campaign, now say they expect to be outraised this year. Then the Obama campaign revealed that it spent more than it took in last month — a condition most campaigns reach much later in the cycle.

Just as important as how much money is coming in is where the money is going out. The Obama campaign spent $25 million on television ads in the month of May, and ended the month no stronger in the polls than when he started — raising questions about both the effectiveness of the ads and whether the campaign is spending its resources wisely.

So just what has the Obama campaign been spending its money on? According to data filed with the Federal Election Commission, the Obama campaign spent $148.7 million in the period from April 1, 2011 through May 31, 2012. (This is separate from any expenditures by the Democratic National Committee.) In a massive spreadsheet file, the 32,787 separate expenditures can be broken down and analyzed.

THE WEB AND COMPUTING: The Obama campaign’s single largest expenditure? Online advertising. In this area, the campaign made 80 purchases totaling $26.7 million, mostly through Washington-based Bully Pulpit Interactive LLC. Expenditures in this category also include one $16 expenditure to the Illinois Secretary of State in Springfield and $300 to advertise on, a Latino professional networking site. The campaign only spent $99 directly on Google AdWords, although it’s quite possible one of their contractors spent additional sums on advertising on the search-engine giant.

Other computer- and web-related costs ate up large chunks of the budget as well: The category of “web site hosting” included 140 payments of $1,185,613.26, and the campaign listed 1,356 expenditures totaling $1,818,208.21 on “computer equipment,” while a separate 303 purchases totaling $969,013.24 were listed as “computer software.”

FOOD: It is claimed that Napoleon said that “armies march on their stomachs,” and the same is true for campaigns. The Obama campaign spent $96,389.41 on catering/facilities. The largest single expenditure in that category was $13,128.72 to Big Delicious Planet catering in Chicago. The campaign also spent $2,571.27 at a Subway sandwich shop in Columbus, Ind.

Nationwide, the Obama campaign has clear preferences for coffee; it spent $552.67 at Dunkin’ Donuts, $389.85 at Einstein Bros. Bagels, $229.22 at Starbucks, and only $183.15 at Caribou Coffee. The campaign has spent $239.38 at 7-Eleven.

The Obama campaign appears to run on pizza: $2,084.37 went to Domino’s Pizza, $1,774.78 went to Pizzanno’s Pizza, $1,167.45 went to Papa John’s, $834.03 went to Pizza Hut, and $362 went to Little Caesars.

(One hopes Michelle Obama won’t find out that some Obama campaign staffer in Winston-Salem, N.C., spent $239.39 at Krispy Kreme.)


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