Clinton, Obama spend differently

Times Staff Writer

In big ways and small, Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton have spent their millions in campaign funds differently.

Clinton pays top dollar to her aides -- giving her communications director twice as much in one month as Obama paid his communications director in a year.

In the past year, Obama spent $1.8 million on buttons and other paraphernalia, whereas Clinton paid dearly for the fuel of many campaigns: pizza and doughnuts.


Her bill for restaurants that offer pizza was $18,000; Obama’s was $8,900. She paid $1,885 to Dunkin’ Donuts; Obama spent $720 at the chain.

Campaigns count payments differently. But the spread between what Clinton and Obama have paid their top aides is striking.

In numerous instances, Clinton has paid vastly more for staff and accouterments and less on the services that directly win votes.

Clinton paid $266,000 to communications director Howard Wolfson last month. Altogether, she has paid Wolfson’s firm, Gotham Acme, $688,000 since the campaign began. Obama’s communications director, Robert Gibbs, receives $144,000 a year.

The two men came to the campaigns from different backgrounds: Wolfson from private enterprise, where he was well compensated; Gibbs from Obama’s U.S. Senate staff.

The spending details were in filings this week and last year with the Federal Election Commission. Since the campaigns began, Obama has spent $138.2 million and Clinton $120.9 million through Jan. 31.

Overhead expenses -- as well as fundraising -- have become a subject of increased interest since Clinton made a loan of $5 million to her campaign last month when funds ran low. She is struggling to right her campaign after a string of losses since the Super Tuesday contests.

“I’ve never been in a campaign that didn’t overspend,” said Garry Mauro, Clinton’s Texas campaign coordinator and a friend of the Clintons since they worked on George McGovern’s presidential campaign in 1972. “Sure, we overspent. Do I wish we had some of that money back we spent in Iowa? Sure.”

Clinton entered the race with the strength of her and her husband’s huge fundraising network. But Obama’s fundraising has since surged ahead by $20 million, leaving her unable to match his spending in the March 4 showdown contests in Ohio and Texas.

Obama has outspent Clinton on polling, $2.8 million to $2.1 million, since the campaigns began.

Through the end of January, Obama also appears to have spent $35 million on the all-important category called “media,” producing and airing television spots aimed at winning over voters.

Clinton has spent about $27 million on such spots.

“I think the campaign has targeted its resources appropriately,” said Wolfson.

On numerous other expenses, Clinton’s campaign seems to have outdone Obama’s. She spent $7.8 million on charter and commercial airfares, compared with his $6.4 million.

Each campaign has spent heavily on mailings and fundraising. But though Obama holds his share of high-end events, much of the money fueling his campaign has arrived via the Internet.

The overhead of sending mass e-mail appeals for money is minor in relation to the return. But even there, Obama discloses having spent less than Clinton -- $1.2 million on Internet-related costs to $1.57 million by Clinton.

Clinton relies more on large fundraising events, often holding them at the mansions of wealthy donors and collecting the maximum $2,300 from people attending.

The cost of such events is high. Campaigns end up footing the bills for catering -- and she has paid $4 million for event catering to Obama’s $2.47 million.

“These people have certain standards,” Democratic consultant Garry South said of Clinton’s high-end donors. “They want to be known as classy party-givers. They are resistant to trying to cheap it out. All that comes off the top.”

Clinton does not directly pay her chief strategist, Mark Penn. But since the campaign began, she has paid almost $8 million to the firm Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates. She has another $2.1 million in unpaid bills to the firm, according to a campaign finance filing earlier this week.

Penn receives payment from the firm and is its president, although he said he had no ownership interest in it. The firm’s billings include consulting, polling, direct mail, printing and postage. Obama’s campaign subcontracts out its mailings and polling.

Obama has paid $1.2 million to the firm run by his chief strategist, David Axelrod, over the last year. Axelrod collects a percentage of the broadcast and cable ads, but the Obama campaign would not disclose the size of his take.

There are several other differences. Clinton paid her main field organizer $220,000. Obama paid his field organizer $109,000, plus an additional $68,000 to his firm.

Clinton paid $154,000 to Patti Solis Doyle, the campaign manager who left the campaign in a shake-up earlier this month. Obama’s campaign manager, David Plouffe, who oversees spending, is paid $144,000.




Where the money went

How Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton have spent some of their funds since the campaigns began:


Flowers, decorations: $23,484

Parking: $41,946

Online advertising: $1.2 million

Printing: $2.3 million

Telemarketing: $5.5 million


Interpreters: $7,238

Photography: $116,514

Parking: $183,778

Phone banks: $2.9 million

Printing: $3.4 million

Source: Federal Election Commission