Reach into your wallet. Take out a twenty, a ten, a five, three singles, a nickle, and four pennies. Give it all to your favorite political consultant.
Now do it again. And again a second later. And a second after that. And a second after that. And keep going at it for 38 straight days.
That, effectively, is what former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg did from the formal launch of his Democratic presidential campaign on November 24, 2019, through the end of the year, according to financial filings the campaign submitted to the Federal Election Commission on Friday.
Bloomberg has poured an astounding $200 million into his own presidential campaign. It spent about $188 million in the fourth quarter of last year. A significant chunk of those expenditures came before Bloomberg was officially a candidate. But between his announcement and the end of the year, it dropped more than $125 million.
That’s nearly $3.3 million per day, or more than $137,000 per hour, or more than $2,285 per minute, or just about $38.09 per second.
Even those huge expenditures only tell part of the story. According to that FEC filing, the campaign had more than $33 million in outstanding debts at the end of last year in spite of the fortune that Bloomberg himself has dumped into the effort.
The campaign owed $15.8 million to its top creditor, search engine giant Google, for digital advertising, according to its list of outstanding liabilities. Second on the list was Schoen Survey Research, the firm run by veteran Democratic pollster Doug Schoen. The campaign owed Schoen’s company nearly $4 million on top of the $3.2 million the firm has already been paid.
Campaign spokesman Stu Loeser said those debts were just invoices that were still outstanding at the December 31, 2019, close-of-books deadline, and that they had all either been paid already or would be paid in the near future.
“Since we filed this obviously we've had significant additional expenditures,” Loeser said.
Virtually every financial aspect of the Bloomberg campaign has been outsized compared to his Democratic competitors. He’s spent and raised the most money by far, though the Bloomberg campaign hasn’t taken a dime in direct contributions from anyone but the candidate. His television advertising budget alone—$132 million in Q4 just to one vendor—is far larger than the total sums spent by any of his competitors.
On just one day, November 20, Bloomberg spent $58 million. On Wednesday alone, Bloomberg’s campaign dropped more than $2 million on Facebook ads, roughly the same sum that businessman Andrew Yang’s campaign has spent during the entire race and more than the combined Facebook expenditures of Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s and Sen. Michael Bennett’s presidential teams.
The money is—and this is a technical term—insane in its scope. But it appears to be having its desired impact. The former mayor has been rising steadily in the polls, undoubtedly due to the ubiquity of his TV ads. And on Friday, the Democratic National Committee announced that it had revamped the rules for candidates to qualify for their sanctioned presidential debates. No longer would a campaign have to hit a threshold number of donors. Instead, it would rely on them clearing polling hurdles nationally or in key voting states.
UPDATE, February 20, 2020: Remarkably, the Bloomberg campaign's rate of spending more than doubled in the first month of the year. According to its FEC report covering January, the campaign spent $220,620,861.64 that month. That breaks down to about $82.37 per second.