How to campaign on $117,000 a day

WASHINGTON — Republican Linda McMahon’s campaign spent nearly $2.5 million in the first 21 days of July, a daily average of $117,619.

And in the weeks before gliding to a primary win on Aug. 10, McMahon pumped another $5 million of her own money into the Senate campaign.

McMahon’s most recent campaign finance reports offer a glimpse inside one of the nation’s most expensive Senate bids — a snapshot of a flush campaign that has a bevy of political consultants, researchers, and strategists, along with sophisticated data analysis and web capabilities.

McMahon’s July expenditures run the gamut — from $400 to Bayview Balloons for decorations to $25,000 to a Las Vegas firm, Autumn Productions, for political consulting.


Linda McMahon (CT Mirror)


In total, the campaign spent about $282,000 on research, surveys, and political consultants, along with more than $1.2 million on ads and nearly $500,000 on printing and postage (perhaps for some of those glossy mailers she has sent out criticizing Blumenthal.) The campaign’s cell phone bills alone came to about $40,000 for July.

McMahon’s $2.47 million campaign tab for the first part of July is nearly twice as much as her rival, Democrat Richard Blumenthal, has spent overall in the closely watched contest to succeed Christopher J. Dodd, who spent $1.4 million to win the seat in 1980.

Blumenthal’s most recent report, which covers campaign activity through the end of June, shows that his campaign has spent about $1.37 million so far this election cycle.

Of course, Blumenthal did not face a contested Democratic primary, while McMahon, the former chief executive officer of World Wrestling Entertainment, battled two rivals: investor Peter Schiff and former U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons. And her July report reflects an intense sprint heading into that August vote.

“Even leading up to the primary, when Linda’s lead in the polls was significant and while we continued to focus on Blumenthal, we were taking nothing for granted,” said Ed Patru, a spokesman for McMahon.

“In the weeks leading up to the primary vote, our opponents were hammering Linda pretty hard. One was on TV with a significant buy in what can only be categorized as an attack and another one of our opponents was generating significant earned media in which he was also attacking Linda,” Patru said, referring to Schiff and Simmons respectively.

No question, McMahon had to navigate an uncertain political landscape going into the Aug. 10 vote, with low turnout heightening the potential for surprises. And she didn’t want to just win — the campaign wanted a comfortable victory margin so she could emerge from that battle strong for the general election.

But $2.5 million in 21 days is still a lot. And it provides a hint of what’s to come as the McMahon-Blumenthal match-up takes shape in the coming months. McMahon, who has vowed to spend whatever it takes to win in November, already is back on the air with commercials attacking Blumenthal.

Already, the Connecticut contest ranks as the 4th most expensive in the country, in terms of the amount raised, and it’s No. 3 in terms of money spent, according to a tally by the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan watchdog group.

McMahon’s July campaign bill “makes my jaw drop,” said Sheila Krumholz, the center’s executive director. But she added, “when you take into account the total amount spent in this race and her personal wealth and the rapid growth in campaign receipts and spending over the last few cycles, it becomes less and less extraordinary.”

To be sure, Krumholz and others said it’s almost easy these days to blow through millions of dollars in campaign cash, especially for self-funding candidates like McMahon.

“It’s just a wide open spigot,” she said.

Bill Carrick, a Democratic political consultant based in California, echoed that assessment. California is home to two other extremely expensive races featuring self-funded candidates, gubernatorial contender Meg Whitman and Senate hopeful Carly Fiorina, and Carrick said such wealthy contenders seem to run “ever expandable” operations.

“They have the money, and they just throw it out the door as the campaign pressures drill down on them,” he said. “And there’s an army of specialists” eagerly marketing myriad campaign services, from traditional consulting to savvy social media campaigns to “micro-targeting” of voters.

Patru said McMahon’s campaign is tightly run, even if there’s no set limit on spending.

“Linda has spent 30 years in business,” he noted. “She has made a career out of understanding budgets and understanding how to run a business … Systems have been put in place from the beginning to ensure that every dollar is spent wisely, and Linda is very hands on.”