Consultants reaped windfall from failed Bush campaign

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When Donald Trump pointed the finger at Jeb Bush at the last debate and claimed he’s got nothing to show for the millions his campaign has spent, he wasn’t kidding.

A review of how Bush and his allies spent over $125 million in his failed campaign shows the main thing to come out of it was a lot of consultants and local TV stations made a lot of money.

A Washington Post review of Bush spending shows more than 95 percent of the advertising budget – from his campaign and the separate super PAC, Right to Rise – went to consulting firms Oath Strategies and Revolution Agency. The more than $100 million budget largely went straight to buying up air time on local TV stations, but the consultants themselves reportedly would have pocketed several million dollars in commissions and fees along the way.

The rest of the money, according to the Post review, went to polling, legal fees, and other areas. For all that, he won just four delegates – or roughly $31 million per delegate. He drew just 3 percent of the vote in Iowa; 11 percent in New Hampshire; and 8 percent in South Carolina.

The Post also puts the spotlight on Mike Murphy, who ran the pro-Bush super PAC – suggesting his influence could account for why so much money was poured into advertising.  Murphy, it turns out, is a founding partner of Revolution Agency. He also previously served as a top adviser to Bush’s 1998 and 2002 gubernatorial campaigns.

The super PAC was expected to be a dominant factor in shaping the narrative for the 2016 GOP fight but in the end, Right to Rise fell short of its expectations. Bush, the former Florida governor, dropped out of the race after a disappointing South Carolina finish on Saturday.

The drop-out comes after Republican front-runner Trump made a point of calling Bush out on his lavish spending during the most recent South Carolina debate.

"In New Hampshire, I spent $3 million. Jeb Bush spent $44 million. He came in five, and I came in No. 1," Trump said.

But the get-rich campaign cycle isn’t limited to Bush.

So far, presidential campaigns reportedly have spent $400 million on consulting services – about three times as much as they did in the 2012 campaign cycle.

The bulk of Ben Carson’s spending has been on consulting firms specializing in fundraising, including email solicitations and data analytics. More than $15 million has been paid to three consultants: TMA Direct, InfoCision and Eleventy Marketing Group.

Ted Cruz paid $4.75 million to Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics firm started by Robert Mercer, the same man who gave a pro-Cruz super PAC Keep the Promise $11 million.