As of December 31, 2007, Obama's leadership PAC, The Hope Fund, had already given $299,000 to Democratic senators and representatives (incumbents and some seeking seats) for the 2008 election cycle. Neither Clinton or McCain made any contribution to federal candidates during 2007.
The three-year (2005-2007) tally for federal candidates looks like this: Obama, $900,000; McCain, $356,000; Clinton, $297,000.
In the case of the Democratic candidates, the disbursements are worth a second look, since each Democratic senator and representative is a super delegate. In August, The Hill reported that:
In June, Obama gave $5,000 contributions from his PAC, Hopefund, to every Democratic member of Congress from Iowa and New Hampshire. On June 15, he gave to Reps. Paul Hodes and Carol Shea-Porter of New Hampshire, and Reps. Bruce Braley, David Loebsack and Leonard Boswell of Iowa. At the end of the month, he wrote a $5,000 check to Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa).
Obama’s wooing paid off last month. On July 26, Hodes became the first lawmaker from Iowa or New Hampshire to make an endorsement in the Democratic primary, throwing his support to Obama.
November, The Huffington Post noted that Obama was giving money to "to local Democratic groups and candidates in the key early-voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina... Obama's PAC reported giving a $1,000 contribution, for instance, to New Hampshire state Sen. Jacalyn Cilley on July 25, six days before she announced she was endorsing Obama for president."
Leadership PACs have been criticized as a loophole for big donors and as tool for a Congressional member to become "a major player." Congressmen can't spend the money on their campaigns directly, but they can indirectly by hiring consultants and pollsters, for example.
In the combined 2006-2008 campaign cycles, McCain's PAC has raised (and spent) more than $8 million; Obama has raised (and spent) more than $4.2 million; and Clinton has raised (and spent) more than $3.2 million. Obama's expenditures differ from the other two candidates: thousands in limos, a skeleton office in 2007, multiple phone carriers around the country. McCain's extravagance is chartered air travel (about $1 million worth). Clinton had no extravegances.
Here are the data for the three major candidates in the presidential race.
- Hillary Clinton (D-NY) created her leadership PAC, HILLPAC, on 5 January 2001. For the 2008 campaign cycle, she has given no money to any candidates; the PAC has spent $209,465, almost exclusively on staff and office expenses.
In the 2006 campaign cycle, her PAC spent $2,992,573, but only $297,000 went to Senate ($170,000) or House ($107,000) candidates. The remainder was spent almost exclusively on wages and office expenses, although there were some consulting fees and an insignificant travel bill.
- John McCain (R-AZ) Straight Talk America, his leadership PAC, on 20 March 2000.
Like Clinton, he has given no funds to Senators or Representatives in the 2008 campaign cycle, although his PAC has spent $288,000.
In the 2006 campaign cycle, his PAC spent $7.9 million, but only $355,572 went to federal candidates: $109,479 to Senators and $246,093 to Representatives. Unlike Clinton, McCain's PAC spent lots on travel (around $1 million with charter firm Flight Options, Cleveland, OH) and lots on consultants (political, financial, IT, internet). Some traditional air travel, salaries, a lot of direct mail (politicking) fees.
Also unlike Clinton, McCain had another PAC, Straight Talk America - Florida during the 2006 season. It spent $17,986; none went to federal candidates.
- Barack Obama (D-IL) created his leadership PAC, the Hope Fund, on 25 Jan 2005. For the 2008 campaign cycle, he has given $231,000 to House candidates and $68,000 to Senate candidates, yet the fund has spent more than twice that: $626,777.
Obama's 2008 cycle expenses are different from Clinton's and McCain's. More travel (although not charter airfares); a $466 limo bill in (greater?) D.C.; $5,000 to Habitat for Humanity. What's odd: payroll is for less than a year but paid more frequently than office expenses; there are phone bills scattered across the country with multiple carriers -- Cingular, T-Mobile and Verizon -- but for only a few months. Even Perkins Coie appears to have been retained for only 10 months. Off year slow down?
For the 2006 cycle, Obama's PAC gave $337,526 to House candidates and $239,243 to Senate candidates. Total: $595,169. Other expenses totaled $3.8 million. A whole lotta travel; a $830 limo bill in Ft. Lauderdale and $1,545 one (!) in East Elmhurst, NY; $5,000 to Ned Lamont's unsuccessful campaign to derail Joe Lieberman; lots of direct mail, US mail and consulting fees (politicking); lots (11) of staff.