Oct 22, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Tim Scott's big spending gamble

Photo: Scott Olson via Getty Images

Sen. Tim Scott's presidential campaign racked up a burn rate of more than 260% in the third quarter of 2023, leaving him at risk of going into debt by the Iowa caucuses in January.

Why it matters: Scott transferred $22 million from his Senate committee and has more cash than many of his rivals. But he'll need to curtail his spending or find new donors as his existing ones max out.

  • Scott's team brought in $4.6 million during the third quarter, but spent close to $12.4 million.
  • By comparison, the campaign of former UN ambassador Nikki Haley brought in $8.2 million and spent $3.5 million during the third quarter.

Zoom in: Six of Scott's campaign aides make about the same or more as the highest paid person on the payroll for the campaigns of Haley and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, according to an Axios review of FEC filings.

  • Some operatives on other campaigns are not on the official payroll and paid through other entities.
  • Scott had 54 people on payroll in the third quarter, compared to 29 for Haley. DeSantis had 63 people on his payroll at the end of September, after he cut more than a third of his staff in July.
  • Scott spent $18,000 each month during the third quarter for a communications consultant group.
  • Former President Trump's campaign pays its top staffers more than Scott's campaign. Senior advisor Jason Miller makes more than double the highest paid campaign staffer for either Haley and DeSantis.

Scott's financial filings show that he has spent about $32,000 on meals during travel and meetings — not including catering services — since he announced his exploratory committee on April 12.

  • Since she announced on February 14 — two months before Scott — Haley's campaign spent about $13,000 on food and beverage, including per diem aides receive from the campaign, according to her FEC filings.
  • DeSantis' campaign combined some food and travels costs, so a comparison was not possible.

Between the lines: Scott still has $11.6 million available to spend in the primary, compared to Haley's $9.1 million and DeSantis' $5 million.

  • But 36% of Scott's donors can't give any more during the primary because they donated at least the maximum primary amount of $3,300, according to an analysis by Politico.
  • Scott's communications director Nathan Brand told Axios: "Heading into Iowa, Tim Scott is the most liked candidate, with the 2nd most resources, and the only evangelical who can win."

Zoom out: The Scott-affiliated Super PAC, Trust in the Mission (TIM) PAC, announced earlier this week that it would step in and pay for campaign-type costs like hosting events.

  • In a memo, the Super PAC also said it was taking down millions of dollars in TV ads for October and November because the "electorate is locked up and money spent on mass media isn't going to change minds until we get a lot closer to voting."
  • The Scott campaign said it would continue its current TV ad buy, citing the fact that the official campaign gets a lower ad rate.
  • Cory Gardner, Co-Chair of TIM PAC, told Axios they believe Scott will "continue to attract strong support in early states as more people begin to engage."

Scott has yet to qualify for the third presidential debate in Miami next month.

  • The campaign initially lobbied the Republican National Committee for donors to the Senate campaign to count toward hitting the donor threshold for the debates, a person familiar with the matter told Axios.
  • Scott’s campaign declined to comment.

The bottom line: Some details of Scott's spending on advertising and travel are unclear because they are funneled through two LLC's: Meeting Street Services and Advanced Planning and Logistics.

Go deeper: Tim Scott pushing RNC to change debate rules

Axios' Simran Parwani contributed to this story.

Methodology: Different campaigns use different descriptors to classify food and drink purchases. Axios used the following disbursement categories for Sen. Tim Scott: "Meals" and "Travel: Food." The categories used for Nikki Haley were "Per Diem" and "Food/Beverage."

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