28 weird ways that presidential campaigns spent their money

Political campaigns are hectic, expensive undertakings. Candidates and their staffers travel all over the country by planes, trains and automobiles. They eat at roadside diners and in the drive-thru lane, and fuel up for campaign rallies and fundraisers at Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks. Indeed, an InsideGov analysis of campaign finance data found presidential campaigns have spent $2,661 at Starbucks in this cycle.

InsideGov, a politics site that’s part of the Graphiq suite of research tools, decided to look more closely at how 2016 White House hopefuls spent their campaign cash. Using expenditure data from the Federal Election Commission and the Sunlight Foundation, InsideGov picked out some of the quirkiest purchases made by the presidential campaigns. The data covers Jan. 1, 2015 to Feb. 29, 2016, and the list is ranked from smallest to largest amount spent.

#28. $172 for Faxing

Carly Fiorina

Carly Fiorina’s staffers had a handful of throwback moments during the campaign, employing a fax service for documents. One can only assume they used a Hewlett-Packard machine, considering Fiorina was the CEO of the tech company for six years.

#27. $450 Worth of Snow Removal Services

On Feb. 20, 2016, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders' campaign paid $450 for snow removal in Massachusetts. That was 11 days before the Bay State’s primary, which was part of Super Tuesday voting. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton eked out a victory there over Sanders.

#26. $1,232 for Grilled Cheese

Ted Cruz

Everyone loves a gooey grilled cheese, especially if it comes from a food truck, right? Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s campaign thought so, too. The Republican presidential hopeful spent more than $1,200 last June at Golden Grill Food Truck, based in Houston.

#25. $1,742 for Subs

Mel Evans/AP Images

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s staffers liked their Subway sandwiches. Christie's presidential campaign spent $1,722.26 at a Subway in Manchester, New Hampshire, on Dec. 30, 2015. That comes out to about 344 of those $5 footlongs the sandwich chain likes to sing about.

#24. $8,652 for Campaign Swag

Rick Perry

Despite a three-month campaign, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry still spent a pretty penny on campaign gear. Expenditure filings show the Perry team paid Sacramento-based company Prime Signs more than $8,600 for shirts, bumper stickers, buttons, hats, posters and signs.

#23. $11,632 on Donuts


If America runs on Dunkin’, then what’s more American than having a presidential campaign powered by the donut chain? Republicans and Democrats alike have dropped some serious dough at the popular purveyor of coffee and donuts.

#22. $15,670 at Jay Z's Nightclub

Jay Z

Last year, Hillary Clinton’s campaign spent more than $15,000 on catering and audio-visual services at Jay Z’s Manhattan bar, the 40/40 Club. The former secretary of state held a fundraiser at the nightclub on Sept. 30, 2015.

#21. $17,323 on Pizza


Back in November, Vocativ reported that Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign leaned heavily on pizza when it came to fueling staffers and volunteers. The trend has continued, with the Clinton team dropping over $17,000 on pizza across the country.

#20. $19,300 to the Green Bay Packers

Scott Walker

Last September, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign paid the Green Bay Packers more than $19,000 for “Facility Rental/Catering Services,” according to expenditure reports. The Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel reported the Walker campaign threw an event for its biggest fundraisers at a Green Bay game on Sept. 28, 2015.

#19. $46,528 to Black Rock Group

Julio Cortez/AP Images

Black Rock Group is a political consulting firm based in the D.C. suburb of Alexandria, Virginia. It has deep ties to Republican super PACs American Crossroads (which is connected to Karl Rove) and Restore Our Future (which backed Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign). During this campaign cycle, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s team paid Black Rock over $46,000 for political strategy and communications consulting.

#18. $69,878 for a Katy Perry Concert

Katy Perry

Katy Perry is a vocal supporter of Hillary Clinton’s White House run. The pop star has performed multiple times in support of the candidate, including co-headlining a fundraiser with Elton John at Radio City Music Hall in March. Clinton’s campaign paid Perry’s production company — called Kitty Purry Inc. — close to $70,000 for event production related to a concert Perry put on in Iowa last October.

#17. $111,703 on Uber Rides


Turns out the popular ride service has the corner market among presidential campaigns, too. Campaign finance filings show that almost $112,000 has been spent on Uber rides during the 2016 presidential race. As the visualization shows, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s campaign has spent the most on Uber rides, at a little over $23,000.

#16. $114,319 on Internet Ads


During the 2016 presidential contest, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee leaned on Internet ads to gin up support for his campaign.

#15. $120,844 on Charter Jet Flights

Carly Fiorina

Like many of her fellow presidential contenders, Carly Fiorina’s team traveled on well-known airlines like United and Southwest. But the campaign also spent almost $121,000 at Advanced Aviation Team, a private jet company.

#14. $135,417 on Gear

Scott Walker

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker entered the presidential contest an early favorite, what with his ties to the Republican establishment and his standing as a tea party darling. Since many political prognosticators anticipated Walker would go the distance, the $135,000 spent on campaign gear likely made sense at the time. But after dismal polling numbers and just 10 weeks on the trail, Walker called it quits.

#13. $175,585 to Blue State Digital


The three top Democratic presidential candidates — former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — all employed Blue State Digital for web and digital consulting services.

#12. $189,144 for Security

Donald Trump

Protesters and violence have been a recurring theme for Donald Trump’s campaign rallies. At the end of April, 17 people were arrested in Southern California after protests broke out at a Trump event.

According to the campaign’s filings with the Federal Election Commission, Trump has spent almost $190,000 on "security services" and "security consulting" in 2015 and the first two months of this year.

#11. $312,549 to HarperCollins

Charlie Neibergall/AP Images

Ted Cruz’s campaign spent more than $300,000 for books and delivery with HarperCollins Publishers, which happens to be the company that published Cruz’s 2015 tome, “A Time for Truth: Reigniting the Promise of America.”

#10. $341,782 on Marco Memorabilia

Marco Rubio Campaign Merchandise

Republican presidential hopeful Marco Rubio was once the establishment’s best hope to fend off Donald Trump’s White House campaign. The Rubio team had the gear to back it up, too, with almost $342,000 spent on bumper stickers, T-shirts, signs, hats and sweatshirts.

#9. $444,937 on Books

Bernie Sanders' Book

Bernie’s got a book, and he wants you to read it. The Sanders campaign spent almost $445,000 with Verso Books, which published Sanders’ “Outsider in the White House” in September 2015. Verso describes itself as “the largest independent, radical publishing house in the English-speaking world,” according to its website.

#8. $665,461 From Trump to Trump


Donald Trump’s campaign has opted to keep some of its spending in the family. Trump Tower, Trump SoHo hotel, Trump Grill and Trump Payroll Corp are among the namesake businesses the campaign billed for meeting expenses, rent and lodging.

#7. $856,439 on T-shirts and Hats

Ben Carson

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson’s campaign doled out more than $850,000 on pro-Carson shirts and hats, according to campaign filings with the Federal Election Commission.

#6. $1,098,294 on Ted Trinkets

Ted Cruz

The Ted Cruz campaign spent close to $1.1 million on a bevy of pro-Cruz hats, posters, shirts, blankets, bumper stickers, banners, stickers, pins, cups, flags, signs and labels. The Texas senator kept it local, too, with $7,942.60 of that going to the aptly named GOP Jerseys LLC, based in Lubbock, Texas.

#5. $2,201,321 on Air Charter Services

Jeb Bush

The Jeb Bush campaign employed multiple private jet companies throughout the presidential race, spending more than $2 million on the services. For people not fortunate enough to land a seat on a chartered flight for work travel, expenditure filings reveal staffers spent $3,511.83 on Gogo inflight Internet services on commercial airlines.

#4. $3,351,717 on Campaign Merch

Donald Trump

No matter how one feels about Donald Trump’s rollicking ride to the Republican nomination, just about everyone can agree that the former reality TV star is a marketing master. His “Make America Great Again” visors and hats — in white, red, blue, black and camo — have been a staple on the campaign trail.

#3. $3,616,991 on Flights

Hillary Clinton

A presidential campaign means lots of travel all over the country. Hillary Clinton’s team has employed charter jet company Executive Fliteways throughout the race, to the tune of over $3.6 million.

#2. $6,191,420 on Consultants

Ben Carson

Ben Carson spent more than $6 million on various types of consultants, whether it was related to political strategy, legal questions, finances or media. That figure balloons to $23,109,713 when accounting for funds the Carson campaign directed to database management and digital media firms run by two people who acted as consultants to his campaign. Mike Murray heads up TMA Direct and Precision Data Management, which received $5,669,648.30 and $545,595.62, respectively. Ken Dawson’s Eleventy Marketing Group got $10,703,049.74 from the Carson campaign.

#1. $7,484,769 for “Campaign Paraphernalia”

Bernie Sanders Stickers

If you “feel the Bern,” Bernie Sanders’ campaign is making sure you have the tools to show it. The campaign dropped almost $7.5 million on promotional materials. The majority of that sum — $6,908,680.21 — went to Tigereye Promotions, a left-leaning design and product company based in Ohio.

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