Propublica has a handy-dandy listing of the presidental campaigns’ top-line fundraising numbers.  Third quarter receipts, expenditures, and cash on hand.

As for new money, Clinton is in the lead with Sanders a close second and Carson a not too shabby third.  On number of donors, Sanders is in the lead at 650,000+ plus, Carson second, and Clinton third (approximately 400,000).

Carson’s haul seems to have pundits perplexed, but they’ve wasted no time in pointing out his high burn rate.  Overlooking the fact that the two are inter-related.  Carson has a fundraising operation masked as a presidential campaign.  (He’s put his involvement in his campaign on hold for two weeks to return to marketing his latest (ghost-written) autobiography.

What also isn’t immediately obvious in a comparison of the top-line numbers for those three candidates is how they’ve managed to get so far ahead of the other candidates in total receipts and number of donors.  Clinton has been building her donor base since at least 1998 (and that built upon the existing base for her husband).  Carson’s fundraising team spent two years building his base — collecting and spending $20 million on the effort.  Sanders began his presidential campaign with his Senate campaign base. For his 2012 reelection, he raised $7 million and spent $3 million.  That hefty balance allowed him to transfer $1.5 million to his Presidential campaign, but overall as of the beginning of this year, Sanders’ donor base was a small fraction of Clinton’s and Carson’s.  So, he has come the furthest and fastest among all the candidates in dollars and donors.  (Also note that in the two days after the DEM debate, Sanders raised $3.2 million from nearly 100,000 donations — undefined if those were from existing or new donors.)

Much is also being made of the fact that the combined total receipts for the GOP candidates exceeds that of the DEM candidates.  The implication being that if there were only two of them, they would be outpacing the two leading DEM candidates.  That may be questionable.  As all of them are disproportionately dependent on larger donations and well-heeled folks tend to hedge their bets, it’s possible that large donors to one candidate are also large donors to one or more of the other candidates.  If so, that would mean that on a combined basis, two GOP candidates couldn’t raise as much as the current combined total for the sixteen candidates.

Chafee’s numbers are irrelevant because he’s self-funding.  Trump’s are semi-irrelevant because so far he’s mostly self-funded.  

Other than Rubio and Fiorina, the candidates have so far not played fast and loose with SuperPac monies paying for what are obvious campaign expenses.  Both Walker and Perry had plenty of SuperPac money when their campaign funding shortfalls forced them out of the race.  

The top-line numbers tell us little about how the spending was allocated.  For that, we rely on statements from campaign spokespersons.  One could review the thousands of pages of detailed expenditures submitted by each the candidates to the FEC, but that’s mind-numbing and time-consuming task.  Absent breakdown on expense categories from the campaigns, we have no idea if Clinton and Sanders spent a similar amount on fundraising to generate their $28 million and $26 million, respectively.  If they did, that means that the Sanders campaign spent even less in comparison with Clinton’s on campaign operations than the spending totals of $11 million and $26 million, respectively, would suggest.  A further consideration is the spending breakdown between central and field operations.

What can be said is that there’s little to nothing in the way of field operations for those campaigns that spend much during the third quarter.  The Walker campaign spent over $6 million in less than 90 days and little to none of that went towards field operations.  We can take as a fact that as of 9/30 Clinton has built the largest field operation of any of the candidates.  Even discounting for all the pricey stuff her campaign operation is doing that Sanders will skip, the field infrastructure of her operation is more developed than that of Sanders, and may be significantly more developed.  The quality of that differential is undefined.  However, even if team Sanders has higher quality (a concession I wouldn’t make) and a higher level of enthusiasm among campaign volunteers, Clinton has an operational advantage.  a gap that Sanders doesn’t have that much time left to close.

CBS has a new report on some of the differences between the Sanders and Clinton campaigns.  

While payroll [$8.5 million for 511 paid staffers] was Clinton’s greatest expense, for Sanders it was “campaign paraphernalia,” FEC documents show. Most of that went to Tigereye Promotions LLC, which says online that it is “a union shop specializing in promotional products,” such as T-shirts.

That’s less alarming than it sounds.  Remember, promotional products are a part of fundraising costs and Sanders total spending for the quarter was $15 million less than receipts.  Whereas, Clinton’s was only $2 million less.  OTOH, team Clinton’s primary campaign donations projection of $100 million means that she’s three-quarters of the way there and the dollar amount of her remaining fundraising costs will be less than what the Sanders campaign will have to spend.    

That said, I’d rather go into the fourth quarter with most of the people resources needed through SuperTuesday already in place than having to build that up in the fourth quarter.  It’s also better to lock in good time slots for television ads to run late in the campaign than to run ads early.  OTOH, early ads are wholly ineffective (unless your name if Bush, apparently).  IMO Sanders campaign manager, Jeff Weaver is being overly optimistic in stating that the campaign has enough money to get through SuperTuesday.  Enough to stay in the race — yes.  Enough to win — probably not.    

Update: The Center for Public Integrity Is pro-Bush super PAC obscuring spending?

Of course. Right along with Rubio’s and Fiorina’s SuperPacs and probably a few others. Why not when the real time cops are few and toothless? Who cares if a year or two from now, they get busted? The worst that can happen is a small fine from the FEC. More likely the FEC will issue a strongly worded letter saying “cut it out guys.” Dross for the round file.

Apparently Justice Kennedy is totally naive as to how crooks and corruption operate in the real world. Installing speed bumps for the unlimited cash donations to get back to campaigns did slow down how fast it can get there. But the bypasses are now being built at a reasonable clip and it won’t be long before they turn into a super highway. With a handful of gazillionaires funding all the candidates, not one of whom will represent other than their patron’s interests.

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