During the 2010 election cycle, for example, Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign committee reported more than $3.1 million in list rental income.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s presidential campaign, which still owes about $1.1 million to various vendors, is charging $10,500 to send one email to its list of 675,000 supporters, according to Politico.
Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign committee still functions in zombie state, and reported raking in nearly $1.4 million in list rental income in 2015.
Romney’s list, the most recent national list assembled by a Republican presidential nominee, has been rented by a variety of political and special interests: the National Republican Senatorial Committee, a nonprofit that promotes gay and lesbian rights, even Carson’s campaign.
Much of the money flows right back out.
One of the top recipients of the Romney campaign committee’s cash is Red Curve Solutions, which was founded by Bradley Crate, the former deputy chief financial officer for the Romney campaign. Red Curve received about $430,000 in 2015 for compliance and communications consulting, according to campaign finance records.
Roughly another $420,000 went to a consulting company headed by Romney aide Matthew Waldrip for “list rental consulting.”
Crate said Red Curve handles the administrative work for the campaign committee, including campaign finance filings and paying taxes on the list rental income.
“The reason [the campaign committee] stays open is so that the list can remain on the market for those future candidates and current candidates,” he said.
Carson’s campaign has been a fundraising juggernaut, taking in $57.9 million through Jan. 31 — more than any other Republican candidate’s campaign, although the pace of contributions fell off late last year as Carson faded in the polls.
Its spending on fundraising has been equally striking. Expenses have soared so high that Carson found himself fending off a direct question about whether his campaign was one, big direct mail scam.
His response was hardly definitive.
“Not that I know of,” Carson said.
On CNN last week, Carson laughingly suggested that his campaign’s former senior staff “didn’t really seem to understand finances” or “maybe they were doing it on purpose.”
The Carson campaign has churned through managers, but most insiders give senior adviser Mike Murray credit for spearheading the grassroots strategy that made the campaign a striking success among small-dollar donors, giving Carson’s bid instant credibility.
Murray’s relationship with Carson dates back to 2013, when the neurosurgeon reached new heights of public awareness after his remarks criticizing the president’s health care overhaul at the National Prayer Breakfast.
Carson agreed to become the face of an anti-healthcare reform effort by American Legacy PAC, a political action committee founded by Murray. That effort far exceeded expectations, something Murray has attributed to Carson’s appeal, and its supporters were an obvious source of money for Carson’s presidential bid.
When Carson decided to run for president, he stepped down from the American Legacy PAC chairmanship. Armstrong Williams, Carson’s business manager and confidant, stepped into it, Williams confirmed in a February interview with the Center for Public Integrity.
American Legacy PAC agreed to provide the nascent Carson campaign with information about its donors in an arrangement commonly referred to as a list exchange.