Not Much Revolutionary About Sanders Campaign’s Spending

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U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

opensecrets Last week, a Slate story characterized Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (D-Vt.) presidential campaign as “conventional.” The story made the point that while Sanders campaigned on a revolutionary message, and often characterized his campaign as a “movement,” he spent significant sums on political consultants, just like a regular establishment campaign.

That got us thinking: if the Sanders campaign bought consultants like a Democratic establishment candidate, how did its overall spending compare to the campaign of his bonafide establishment opponent, Hillary Clinton?

It turns out the two Democratic candidates allocated their money in quite similar ways. Check out the graph below:

Many of the categories fall within about 5 percent of each other, meaning that the Clinton and Sanders campaigns directed nearly the same proportion of their spending to administration, fundraising, and strategy, research & polling. Where the campaigns differed was also where they spent the most: wages and benefits, and advertising.

The biggest difference between the campaigns was the percentage that went to advertising — in Sanders’ case, 58 percent, compared to 43 percent for Clinton; that’s a 15 point difference. As the Slate article notes, Sanders wasn’t as well known as Clinton, so Sanders’ campaign may have had to spend more to introduce him to voters.

But though Sanders spent more on ads, Clinton spent more on people, investing about three times as much as Sanders on wages and benefits for staffers and others hired by the campaign. About 27 percent of her campaign’s expenditures went for this purpose, compared to about 9 percent for Sanders.

Sanders effectively lost the primary in early June, though his campaign had spent about $26.1 million more than Clinton’s as of the end of May. Sanders’ total spending came to a little less than $213 million, while Clinton had spent $186.8 million.

Here’s a top-line breakdown:

Clinton vs. Sanders Campaign SpendingThe Clinton and Sanders campaigns could not be reached for comment.

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