5 takeaways from the rush for campaign cash

 5 takeaways from the rush for campaign cash
© Greg Nash

The race for presidential campaign funds reflects Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersSanders ally pushes Dems on cutting superdelegates Sanders: ‘Trump's agenda is dead’ if Democrats win back majority Hannity snaps back at 'Crybaby' Todd: 'Only conservatives have to disclose relationships?' MORE’s determination to beat Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonClinton takes swipe at 'false equivalency' in media coverage of 2016 election Former presidents, first ladies come together to honor Barbara Bush Romney: Parts of Comey book read 'too much like a novel’ MORE, Clinton’s fundraising advantage over Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpClinton takes swipe at 'false equivalency' in media coverage of 2016 election Trump asked Netanyahu if he actually cares about peace: report Official: Trump to urge North Korea to dismantle nuclear program in return for sanctions relief MORE and the undesirable tasks still facing candidates who failed to make the cut.

As Trump, the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee, pivots away from the primary and Clinton looks to drive the final nail into Sanders’s coffin in the Democratic race, here are five takeaways from the finance reports.

Bernie leaving it all on the field, not in the bank

Call it the Bern Rate.

Sanders’s campaign raised $26.9 million in April, which is an unprecedented sum for a presidential candidate trailing so far behind in the delegate count at this stage in a primary contest.

But even that impressive take was not nearly enough to keep up with his monthly outgoings of $38.6 million. More than $23 million of that total was spent on media buys and various forms of advertising, according to The Hill’s analysis of Federal Election Commission (FEC) data.

To use campaign finance jargon, Sanders now has a burn rate of 143 percent. In other words, he’s spending his cash at an unsustainable pace.

Clinton, by contrast, is living within her means, raising $25.1 million and spending $23.9 million, closing April with more than $30 million in the bank. She’s kept about the same amount of cash in the bank for months now.

Sanders is displaying no such caution. He began April with $17.5 million in the bank and finished the month with less than $6 million on hand. And he’s showing no sign of slowing his spending, promising supporters he’ll fight Clinton all the way to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

Having spent $207 million so far, Sanders is on track to break the record as the biggest-spending second-place finisher in presidential primary history. The only person standing in his way for that record is Clinton herself, who spent $251 million in her failed 2008 primary campaign against then-Sen. Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaNRATV host says Obama owes Parkland students an apology over shooting Paltry wage gains, rising deficits two key tax reform concerns Throwing some cold water on all of the Korean summit optimism MORE, according to FEC records.


Trump still running shoestring organization

Trump’s campaign organization pales in comparison to Clinton’s and even Sanders’s. That’s helped him spend relatively little during his ascension to the GOP’s throne, but it puts him well behind whomever he’ll face in the general election.

Fundraising reports show that Trump paid about 70 staffers $387,000 during April, as well as another $60,000 in fees to top campaign aides like campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, which Trump lists as consulting fees.

The two Democrats have more expansive operations that would presumably have an easier time making the shift to the general election.

Clinton’s payroll is just shy of $4 million for more than 730 employees, while Sanders pays his more than 625 employees about $2.7 million, not including additional consulting fees by either Democrat.

Trump ran that lean operation through the climax of his battle against former rivals Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzCruz's Dem challenger slams Time piece praising Trump Race for Republican Speaker rare chance to unify party for election 32 male senators back Senate women's calls to change harassment rules MORE and John Kasich, who both dropped out at the start of May. Trump recently started to build an organization with the hiring of Paul Manafort in late March as a top strategist, who does not show up in the financial reports, as well as a national finance chief earlier this month.

But even with those hires, it’s unclear whether Trump will start to build out the massive apparatus typical of a general election. His current staff suggests he could find himself comprehensively outgunned unless he starts hiring fast.


Sanders is California dreaming

Trailing Clinton by nearly 300 delegates, Sanders is channeling his inner Led Zeppelin by going to California with an aching in his heart.

No realistic California showing by Sanders will erase that lead because the state’s 475 delegates will be split proportionally between the two candidates. But it’s his best shot at closing the gap, and his spending shows it.

Sanders paid more than $36,000 in Golden State rent in April, more than in any other state besides Vermont — where his campaign headquarters is located — and New York, which held its primary in late April and is second only to California in the number of delegates awarded.

He spent $187,000 on payroll for staffers with home addresses in California. Those could either represent the campaign’s ground game in the state or, at the least, California talent that could lend a hand for his West Coast push.

Compare that to Clinton, who spent less than $10,000 on payroll for staffers with California addresses and another $7,900 on rent in that state.

That spending discrepancy makes clear that the Sanders team understands how big the stakes are in California if he wants to have any shot at meaningfully closing the gap in the last days of the primary.


Trump is starting way behind in fundraising

Trump’s April monthly financial statements reveal that the presumptive Republican presidential nominee is further behind in building a fundraising infrastructure than any major party candidate in recent history.

During April, Trump’s campaign raised $9.7 million. But only $1.7 million out of that monthly haul came from the American people. Trump loaned his campaign the rest of the cash, bringing his total loans over the course of the campaign to $43.5 million.

Trump, who has touted that he hasn’t taken money from wealthy donors or special interests, can argue, with some justification, that he shouldn’t be judged on his April fundraising, as he still hadn’t begun asking people for money. But the April total should nonetheless concern his finance team, which understands a fundraising apparatus can’t be built overnight.

A national fundraising apparatus — the type that can raise more than $1 billion for a general election — takes years to build. And the Clintons, who are the most formidable fundraisers in recent Democratic Party history, have a 30-year head start on Trump in cultivating donor relationships.

Two weeks ago, Trump took an important first step toward rectifying his financial situation by appointing New York banker Steven Mnuchin to head his campaign fundraising. A week later Trump sealed a joint fundraising deal with the Republican National Committee.

Those steps take Trump to base camp. But Mnuchin and company have one heck of a mountain to climb.


Presidential debt collecting

One of the more miserable experiences in American politics is that of being a former presidential candidate still in debt.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) is among the former candidates who has to supplement his day job with quiet trips around the country asking donors to help pay down a long-dead campaign.

Walker’s campaign was $1.2 million in debt at the end of 2015. By the end of March he’d gotten it down to $952,000, and during April Walker paid down another $50,000. If he keeps up his current monthly payment rate Walker will finish paying off his 2016 presidential campaign around Christmas 2017.

Walker is not alone. Other former candidates who remain in significant debt without the cash in their campaign account to immediately pay it back include Chris Christie ($384,000), Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulGOP senator: Democratic opposition to Pompeo 'driven 100 percent by politics' Pompeo lacks votes for positive vote on panel CIA declassifies memo on nominee's handling of interrogation tapes MORE ($317,000), Rick Santorum ($451,000 by the end of March, though no April report yet) and Jim Gilmore ($291,000).

While Gilmore won just 145 votes in Iowa and New Hampshire combined, his debt may hurt the most, as $279,000 of it comes out of his own wallet.