Former vice president Joe Biden’s presidential campaign struggled to gain financial steam in the past three months — spending money at a faster clip and having a smaller campaign war chest than his top competitors, according to new filings released Tuesday night.
The former vice president entered the final quarter of 2019 with significantly less cash on hand than other candidates who are leading in polls or fundraising. And his share of low-dollar donations — which can signal enthusiasm for his candidacy — was significantly lower.
Biden’s lackluster finances were revealed amid growing concerns among some of his allies that his campaign is not equipped for the onslaught of attacks by President Donald Trump. Trump and the Republican Party have already launched a $10 million ad blitz, largely aimed at Biden over his son’s business ties to Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Trump’s ballooning re-election campaign shattered fundraising records in the third quarter, and his campaign continued to pull a steady stream of money from donors giving less than $200, new filings show.
The two candidates vying for the Democratic nomination who lead in fundraising — Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, and Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts — have eschewed wealthy backers and fancy fundraisers. Biden, meanwhile, has relied on a more traditional fundraising model, appearing at private fundraisers catering to the party’s wealthy donors.
The limitations of Biden’s strategy were reflected in his figures from the third quarter — a notoriously difficult time for raising money through private fundraisers, due to the summer lull.
Among Biden’s biggest expenses in the third quarter were $924,000 spent on EJCR LLC, a company that offers private jet charter services, records show. In comparison, Warren and Sanders spent considerably less on private air charters, filings show.
Biden campaign officials said they are confident they have the resources they need to build a winning presidential campaign. The campaign declined to expand on details of his expenses.
“The fundamental question about fundraising is: Do you have what you need to run your race? And we do,” said Kate Bedingfield, Biden’s deputy campaign manager.
Meanwhile, Trump’s re-election campaign and two affiliated committees raised $85 million in the third quarter, filings show. Along with the Republican National Committee, pro-Trump committees have $158 million on hand, Trump’s campaign said Tuesday.
Among the biggest donors to Trump Victory, one of the affiliated committees, were prominent Trump donors: billionaire executive chairman of Colony NorthStar Thomas Barrack Jr. ($360,000); Blackstone Group chief executive Stephen Schwarzman ($250,000); and Ray Washburne, former head of the Overseas Private Investment Corp. ($100,000).
Three registered federal lobbyists with ties to the Trump campaign and administration reported raising $910,000 for Trump Victory: Brian Ballard, Jeffrey Miller and Jason Osborne, filings show.
Main campaign expenses for Trump include $4.6 million to America Made Media Consultants, a company that places ads for the reelection. Parscale Strategy, the company owned by Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale, billed the campaign $512,304 for consulting services.
Trump’s main campaign committee saw a surge in legal fees in the third quarter, paying more than $2 million to various law firms. And Trump properties continued to benefit from the reelection effort, with Trump Victory spending $130,000 at the president’s Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Fla.
The top fundraisers of the quarter were Sanders ($25.3 million); Warren ($24.7 million); Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana ($19.2 million); Biden ($15.7 million); and Sen. Kamala D. Harris of California ($11.8 million).
Sanders had $33.7 million cash on hand at the end of the quarter, filings show. Warren had $25.7 million; Buttigieg had $23.4 million; Harris had $10.5 million; and Biden had $9 million.
Among the five, Harris and Biden spent more money in the third quarter than they raised.
The biggest expenses among the five campaigns this quarter went toward payroll, travel and advertising, as candidates built their ground operations in early primary states.
Biden spent $6.7 million in payroll and payroll taxes; $1.3 million on travel; and another $2 million in digital and media ad buys.
Sanders spent nearly $7 million on payroll and associated costs and $3.8 million on fundraising and digital ads, among other major expenses.
Among the Warren campaign’s biggest expenses were $7.5 million in payroll; $3.5 million in digital media; and $834,000 in travel.
Some of Buttigieg’s big-ticket items included $3.1 million on Facebook ads; $1 million on Google ads; and $5 million on payroll and related fees.
Harris spent $3.8 million on salary and related costs, and $3.4 million on digital and media buys.
The filings made public Tuesday night covered the period from July 1 through Sept. 30. Most of the major presidential campaigns had released their total hauls before the filing deadline, but had not released details of their spending, which were reported Tuesday night with the Federal Election Commission.
Washington Post writers Matt Viser and Lenny Bronner contributed to this report.