Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Where's the Bang for Political Consulting Bucks?

Candidates pouring money into the coffers of political consultants, especially for TV ads, aren't getting much bang for their bucks so far in this election cycle. In fact, a December 2015 New York Times piece by Adam Sheingate, chairman of the Johns Hopkins University political science department, looked at 2016 presidential hopefuls' spending on political consulting firms and noted an often inverse relationship between dollar outlays and poll rankings. For example, Jeb Bush has spent over $50 million to date with a handful of political consulting firms (mainly for TV ads) to earn 3% support in recent CNN/ORC polls, while Donald Trump spent just $1.2 million in the same period to earn a 39% support position in the polls. A ranking of 10 Republican candidates by consultant spending through the end of 2015 has Bush in the lead, with Carson coming in second (for 10% poll support) and Christie in third place for 5% poll results. (Poll leader Trump ranks ninth in spending out of 10.) On the Democratic side, front-runner Hillary Clinton spent the most on consultants at about $18.5 million in 2015--spread evenly over TV, digital media, direct mail/fundraising and polling--but it has earned her higher poll numbers than Bernie Sanders with his $4.9 million consultant outlay. Thanks mainly to media ad costs, 2016 is on track to outdo 2012 in terms of political consulting spending. In 2012, consultants billed federal candidates, parties and super PACs more than $3.6 billion for products and services, Sheingate notes, with 70% of that amount going to firms specializing in the production and placement of media (mainly TV). As of December 10, 2015, candidates and their affiliated super PACs have already spent more than $163 million on consulting services, compared with just $43 million spent on consulting at the same point in 2012 campaigns. By the way, $45 million of 2015's $163 million is accounted for by Jeb Bush's media (TV) dollars, point out Sheingate. For more detail on spending by candidate and promotional channel, see http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/30/opinion/campaign-stops/the-political-consultant-racket.html?_r=0

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