Campaigns Ramp Up Spending in N.H., and Political Insiders Reap the Benefits

Oct 22, 2015

Presidential candidates boosted their spending in New Hampshire this summer, spending nearly six times as much as they did in the previous three month period.

The Republican and Democratic candidates doled out nearly $2 million across the state from July to September. The vast majority of that cash, however, went to a small handful of Republican operatives and consultants -- and the New Hampshire Democratic Party.

The largest slice of spending last quarter, according to new numbers from the Federal Election Commission, went to payroll and consultants, as campaigns bulked up their Granite State staffs. At the same time, candidates have significantly upped their spending on advertising and other kinds of promotion, including fundraising support. 

Credit Sara Plourde / NHPR

These New Hampshire tallies, however, are not a complete picture of spending associated with the presidential primary campaign. First, the figures do not include any money spent on television advertising in the state, which, at least for some candidates, reaches six figures in recent months. Campaigns manage ad buys through third-party firms that negotiate directly with TV stations, and those firms are all based out of state.

These FEC numbers also don't include spending by Super PACS, the independent fundraising vehicles which are spending large sums of money to support candidates, through advertising, direct mail, and voter outreach.

And there's another important footnote to this data: Hillary Clinton's campaign included no information about New Hampshire staff salaries or consultants in its last FEC filing. Instead, the address of nearly every campaign staffer is given as a P.O. Box in New York City, "care of Hillary For America." So, without a complete list of New Hampshire staffers, it is impossible to know how much Clinton's Granite State operation is costing her campaign. A Clinton spokesman declined to provide a list of New Hampshire staff or information about the campaign's state payroll.

Who's spending the most?

Still, the 3rd quarter FEC filings provide a guide to how candidates in both parties have been ramping up their New Hampshire campaigns.

Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator who spent much of the summer rising in the polls against Clinton, led all candidates in New Hampshire spending over that period, with $365,000 in total expenses. Close behind, however, was a candidate who's no longer in the race: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. The Republican dropped his White House bid in September because of lackluster fundraising and lagging poll numbers. 

But, at least according to his New Hampshire financial records, Walker was spending plenty of cash in an effort to raise more money in the final weeks of his candidacy. Through July, August and September, Walker paid $322,000 to SCM Associates, a Dublin, N.H.-based firm that specializes in fundraising pitches for Republican candidates. The firm's past clients include Mitt Romney's 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns, Scott Brown's failed Senate bid last year, and Walt Havenstein's 2014 campaign for governor.

In fact, Walker's tab with SCM Associates made the firm the biggest single recipient of primary campaign cash in the state last quarter.

Credit Sara Plourde / NHPR

Most of the other top recipients were GOP strategists, consultants and lobbying firms advising candidates on their New Hampshire strategy. This includes RightOn Strategies, run by Mike Biundo, who's helping steer Sen. Rand Paul's campaign; Elevare Communications, where managing partner Rich Killion is advising Jeb Bush's Granite State efforts; and Marbleport LLC, where Ethan Zorfas is a top advisor to Sen. Ted Cruz.

Also on that list is Green Monster Consulting, the firm run by Corey Lewandowski, the national campaign manager for Donald Trump. 

Another big beneficiary of candidate spending last quarter was the New Hampshire Democratic Party. The party received a total of $140,000 from Sanders. Of that amount, $40,000 came as a direct contribution in late August. The rest was the price tag of the party's voter file, a sprawling database with information on New Hampshire voters stretching back several election cycles. The file, which state party officials have spent years compiling and refining, can help campaigns target potential supporters, and can provide a big boost to campaign voter ID and get-out-the-vote efforts. Clinton purchased the data in the file earlier this year.

Where the dollars are landing

When it comes to the geography of campaign spending in New Hampshire, Manchester is definitely the winner. Roughly one-third of all campaign dollars was spent in the Queen City last quarter. Second was the town of Dublin, home of the aforementioned SCM Associates. 

But, as the map below shows, the state's spending hotspot is the lower I-93 corridor, from Concord south, with a smattering of additional spending on the Seacoast. Many towns in northern and western New Hampshire saw no candidate spending last quarter. This pattern mirrors the campaign calendar: Candidates are much more frequent visitors to cities and towns in southern New Hampshire, where the majority of voters live. (Click on each town to see the candidate-level spending amounts there.)

Map: Campaign Spending by N.H. Town

Politics aside, what does this spending mean for the state and its economy? Researchers have tried to gage the impact that hosting the nation's first presidential primary has on New Hampshire's economy, including tourism dollars, business development and overall impression of the state. 

But, looking solely at direct candidate spending this year, if you want to benefit from all that campaign cash sloshing around the state, it's best to be a GOP strategist with a Manchester address.