This post has been updated.
Last month at this time, regular readers will recall, we posed this question: “Donald Trump is finally raising money. So why isn’t he spending it?” The Republican presidential nominee had shelled out just $18.4 million in July, about one-third of the amount that Democratic rival Hillary Clinton raced through that month.
Now we can report that Trump has, at long last, ramped up his campaign spending, paying out nearly $30 million in August, according to his new Federal Election Commission filing. That’s still less than Clinton, who went through $49 million, with 68 percent of her funds going to ad buys and production. But it is the most he has spent in a month by far and signals that the real estate developer is finally investing in some semblance of an infrastructure.
So where did the money go?
The campaign’s largest investment continues to be in digital consulting and online ads. Giles-Parscale, a San Antonio-based firm whose president, Brad Parscale, serves as the Trump campaign’s digital director, was once again the biggest vendor for the month, collecting $11.1 million, much of which was directed to digital ads. The company, which got its foothold designing websites for the Trump Organization in 2011, had previously been paid $12.5 million this cycle.
Cambridge Analytica, a data-analytics firm backed by Republican megadonor Robert Mercer, got $250,000 in August, up from $100,000 in July. Trump’s media consultant, Rick Reed, was paid $4.5 million to place TV ads. And Private Jet Services, a New Hampshire-based air charter, received $2.3 million. That’s a shift from past months, when Trump mainly used his own private jet company Tag Air to fly. In August, Tag Air was paid about $320,000.
Through July, the campaign had directed nearly $7.7 million in reimbursements to Trump properties and Trump family members, a practice that drew criticism. But such spending drastically dropped in August. In all, just $548,519 went to reimburse Trump and his companies, the majority to Tag Air, the new filing shows.
The campaign spent a large sum — nearly a quarter-million dollars in one month — to pay its lawyers at the firm Jones Day.
However, the billionaire continued to maintain a small campaign staff, spending just about $765,000 on payroll in August on 131 staffers, up from about $500,000 in July, when he had about 82 people on the payroll. Clinton, by comparison, had 789 people on staff last month.
Trump has bragged about his lean operation, saying Tuesday night at a rally in North Carolina: “If you can spend less and be winning, that’s a positive thing, right? That’s the person you want as your president, I think.”
But he continued paying one departed employee: former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who got another $20,000 for strategy consulting Aug. 11 through his company Green Monster Consulting. Lewandowki is working as a paid commentator for CNN but has recently reemerged at Trump events and been spotted in conversations with Trump aides.
Lewandowski received an identical $20,000 payment from the Trump campaign in July, two weeks after he was ousted as campaign manager. Last month, Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks said the July payment was for Lewandowski’s work in June before he left the campaign.
In a statement Wednesday, Hicks gave a different answer, saying the money going to Lewandowski represents “monthly severance payments.”
“The campaign will continue to honor its contract with Mr. Lewandowski, which stipulates he will be paid through the end of the year,” she said. “These payments are in no way compensation for services rendered.”
Of the $90 million that Trump said he raised in conjunction with the Republican National Committee in August, his campaign reported collecting nearly $41 million for the month. He began September with $50.3 million in the bank.