Bryce Campaign Spending Priorities: Consultants, Travel, and More Fund Raising

While it is his fund raising totals that are generating headlines, it could be congressional candidate Randy Bryce’s spending habits that raise the most eyebrows.

In the most recent reports to the Federal Elections Commission (FEC), liberal gadfly, union activist and possible Paul Ryan challenger  Randy Bryce reported raising nearly $1.2 million for the fourth quarter of 2017. What didn’t get reported was how much his campaign spent during the same three-month time frame which, according to the FEC, was over $920,000. That means for every dollar that Randy Bryce and his campaign raised, they were spending 77 cents of it before it came in the door.

That is an incredible “burn rate” (The percentage at which a campaign “burns” through its money) for an organization which still has to go through a primary and general campaigns before the end of the year. It’s possible that Bryce could continue his fund raising pace all the way to November; but will his campaign’s spending habits leave it running on fumes by Election Day?

Time will tell. At the end of the 2017, Bryce’s campaign had almost $1.3 million in the bank and has used every opportunity he can to fund raise against House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Janesville).

A Media Trackers analysis of the Bryce Campaign’s Federal Elections Commission finance report for the fourth quarter of 2017 indicates that the bulk of its spending fits into three main categories: Consultants, Travel, and Fund Raising.

Leading all spending was more than $423,000 in “Direct Mail Services” to Rapid Returns, a Democratic direct mail firm based out of Santa Monica, California with a satellite office in Madison, Wisconsin. While all political campaigns have a direct mailing firm, what makes the choice of Rapid Returns interesting is its client list is full of U.S. Senate candidates like Massachusetts’ Elizabeth Warren or New Jersey’s Corey Booker, not House candidates such as Bryce. In fact, the only other House candidate on the firm’s client list is Jon Ossoff, the losing candidate in a high-profile special election for a Georgia congressional seat in 2017.

That means a high percentage of this “Direct Mail Services” spending is actually the purchasing of any number of contact lists (i.e addresses and emails) which other campaigns owned, but have now sold to the Bryce campaign. Such a practice is quite common, but it is very rare to see in a House race. All of which once again highlights how the Bryce’s campaign is nationally focused: not on the actual House district he is campaigning to represent.

That contention is strengthened when you look at where Bryce’s money is coming from. Analysis data showed that of the 1,942 itemized donations listed on the Bryce campaign’s FEC filing, only 241 – or just 12 percent – came from within Wisconsin. When that figure is broken down into an actual dollar amount, just more than $41,300 of the Bryce campaign’s funds come from Badger State residents. That number represents just under 3.5 percent of the nearly $1.2 million he has raised in the past three months.

The next largest category for the Bryce campaign was over $340,000 in various “consulting services.” According to the campaign’s FEC filing, the various services include such things as “social media consulting,” “fundraising consulting services,” “campaign research services,” “campaign strategy services,” “media consulting services,” and on and on; many of whose offices are located in the Washington, DC metro area.

The single greatest line-item of these spending for consults called for $72,267.50 in three different expenditures for “Media Production Services” to an “ASP Media, LLC” of New York City. Without further details available to us into what these expenditures may be used for, we can only guess this was payment for some kind of video production. Was this how much it cost for the Bryce campaign to produce its infamous ad that ran on MSNBC just before last week’s State of the Union Address?

At the time the Bryce campaign said the cost of airing such an ad cost them $50,000. $35,000 was for a nationwide buy on MSNBC, with the remaining divided among the television markets of Milwaukee, Madison, San Francisco, and Seattle.

Another sign of the Bryce campaign’s commitment to fund raising is how many consultants it paid who specialize in collecting cash. The campaign’s FEC report showed that at total of just under $25,000 was spent on not one, but three different “Fundraising Consulting Services.” Additionally, the campaign was charged more than $32,000 from “ActBlue Technical Services” for what can only be a high volume of credit card processing fees.

Since its founding, ActBlue has played a vital role in the online liberal activist community. For years now, it has been often the only way for many online progressives to get as many donations as possible to candidates, causes, and campaigns online. With the rise of “The Resistance” after the election of Donald Trump and increased opposition to Republican House leadership and Speaker Paul Ryan, this has meant increased attention for Bryce and his campaign.

All this fund raising across the country has certainly increased the number of frequent flier miles for the Bryce campaign. While the total number of trips, or to where, is unknown, the campaign is no stranger to the nation’s major carriers. Air travel costs were racked up with Jet Blue, Delta Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and United Airlines. Our analysis puts the campaign’s total cost of airfare from October through December 2017 to be around $10,000 or more if you include travel costs it accrued by inviting Arizona Congressman Ruben Gallego (D-Phoenix) for a town hall on immigration.

But airfare wasn’t the only means of getting around. Beside traveling by plane, the campaign paid for train tickets (Amtrak), and the occasional use of a ride sharing vehicle. Many campaign staffers were personally reimbursed for various trips they took on Uber or Lyft (including Bryce himself). While again, none of this is uncommon spending in politics, it’s extremely rare to see in a congressional campaign.

Finally, it wouldn’t be a fund raiser without something to eat; of which there was plenty. “Catering” costs totaled near $6,000 according to the Bryce campaign’s FEC report, with numerous Washington, DC restaurants giving bills to the Bryce campaign. In fact, the only Wisconsin-based restaurants listed in the filing are the “Screaming Tuna” and “King and I,” both located in metro Milwaukee.

So despite wanting to present a “working man” persona, Bryce’s campaign is spending whenever and wherever they can. And that money is often used to raise even more money; almost as though that were the primary reason for the campaign’s existence.