The Bush dynasty ended not with a bang, but a whimper on Saturday when Jed Bush officially threw in the towel at the feet of Donald Trump, but not before spending $130 million for his now failed presidential campaign.
As the NYT reminds us, when Jeb Bush formally entered the presidential campaign in June, there was already more money behind him than every other Republican candidate combined. When he suspended his campaign on Saturday night in South Carolina, Mr. Bush had burned through the vast majority of that cash without winning a single state. It may go down as one of the least successful campaign spending binges in history.
Here are some of the things Jed spent his backers’ money on:
Positive Advertising: $84 Million
When Mr. Bush finally did get in the race, he needed to reintroduce himself to the Republican electorate. After all, it had been eight years since the end of his final term as Florida’s governor, and he had spent the intervening period as a philanthropist, consultant and investment banker. His campaign and a super PAC supporting him spent heavily on sunny advertising spots in the hopes of announcing Mr. Bush to the post-Tea Party Republican Party as a credentialed conservative.
Instead of spending last winter on the hustings of Iowa and New Hampshire, Mr. Bush held off, instead using the first half of 2015 to raise money in places like New York, Chicago, Texas and Florida. His goal: Raise enough money for a “super PAC” to scare other candidates — especially those with a similar political profile — out of the race. Over the entire campaign, Mr. Bush’s team racked up tens of thousands of dollars in dinner and event tabs at the Yale Club, the Union League Club of Chicago, Nantucket’s Westmore Club, and more than two dozen other haunts of the well heeled and racquetball-inclined.
Donors’ cars don’t park themselves. With an aggressive fund-raising schedule and several major donor gatherings, Mr. Bush and the super PAC, Right to Rise, incurred a proportional parking tab.
People: $8.3 Million
As Mr. Bush’s campaign matured, he and the group supporting him built one of the largest organizations of any candidate in either party, banking that his superior fund-raising would sustain his high overhead costs, which in turn would yield him wins or near-wins in states like Iowa and New Hampshire, where organizing is critical. But Mr. Bush’s message — experience, civility and technocratic competence — did little to win over voters mesmerized by the billionaire provocateur Donald J. Trump, who outshone his rivals with a bare-bones organization and millions in free media exposure.
Right to Rise, the super PAC supporting Mr. Bush, and then his campaign directly, retained 30 Point Strategies, a public relations company in Bethesda, Md., specializing in “thought leadership” and “brand journalism,” according to the firm’s website. But in the end, the most lasting label of Mr. Bush was supplied by Mr. Trump: “low energy.”
Vegas, Baby: $48,544
Mr. Bush and his staff racked up sizable travel bills, including $3.3 million in airfare and hundreds of thousands of dollars at hotels, ranging from a Best Western in Phoenix to the Biltmore in Coral Gables, Fla. But what stands out is the Bush team’s taste for the Vegas Strip, where aides and allies patronized the Bellagio, the Wynn and the Venetian, owned by Sheldon Adelson, the Republican megadonor.
The Consultants: $10 Million
A well-funded candidate tends to attract hordes of consultants, and Mr. Bush had plenty. All told, his team paid consulting fees to around 140 different companies or individuals, including senior campaign staff members, opposition research firms, and get-out-the-vote operatives in Iowa and South Carolina.
As his fortunes declined this winter, Mr. Bush sharply pared back employees’ salaries and consulting fees, even laying off some campaign staff members to bring down costs. But let it never be said that Mr. Bush allowed his team to go hungry. His campaign and super PAC were particularly fond of the pizza, whether from Domino’s or from Pizza Ranch, the Iowa chain.
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