Living with credit

Presidential candidates have bad credit

Emily Crone

Running any political campaign is expensive, but running for president costs a fortune. Expenses include paying a full team of staffers, flying to multiple cities every day for months on end, running television commercials on major networks, purchasing radio ads, buying signs and flyers and holding events at major venues. Donations are received through frequent fundraisers and through candidates’ Web sites, but it’s a constant arms race to see which candidate can outspend the rest.

I heard a great feature on National Public Radio on the way to work the other morning discussing the financial situations of the presidential candidates. “As a group, presidential candidates don’t have the best credit rating,” Peter Overby said.

Why’s that? Nancy Bocskor, a Republican fundraising consultant, told this to NPR: “Candidates blow in, they spend a lot of money to have a rally, they blow back out and you never see them again. Years ago, the phone companies started getting very smart and required very large deposits, so they could actually get their money back.”

Hillary Clinton’s campaign has struggled the most with funding, and unpaid bills are piling up. Shortly before the Iowa caucuses, Clinton’s campaign tried to book a venue for a last-minute event. The events management director at the venue knew political candidates were notorious for paying bills late, if at all, so he asked for an up front $1,505 fee by credit card. The Clinton campaign refused and asked for an invoice, but a month later, it still hadn’t come. The event director called the campaign and was told it would be taken care of, but a month later, still nothing. He then received a request for a taxpayer identification number, and received a check several weeks later.

A caterer in Des Moines, Iowa, was owed $1,000 by the Clinton campaign and left many phone messages, which were not returned. Just as she was weighing legal action, the bill was paid. It’s also been reported that her campaign has been behind in paying health insurance bills and neglecting to play their polka musicians (hat tip to Ben Smith at Politico).

The NPR feature said Clinton’s campaign has been paying most of its bills on time, though it was $8.7 million dollars in debt as of Feb. 29. Barack Obama and John McCain have campaign debt too, but Clinton’s is more than both of theirs combined.

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  • Yes, but the McCain family must have great credit: According to his most recent personal finance reports, his wife, Cindy, has a pair of American Express cards, one platinum, one Black, each of which has incurred debt of $100,000 to $250,000. We made note of that in a story titled “Three candidates, two credit card reform programs.”
    Normal mortals don’t get that kind of credit limit without paying their bills!