Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain together spent $94 million in August, a record spree mostly aimed at about a dozen states that will probably decide their historic presidential contest.
Their campaign finance reports, filed before Saturday’s midnight deadline, shows that more than half of their $3-million-a-day spending rate was devoted to advertising that became increasingly negative during the month.
Both men had their personal best fundraising months. Obama raised $65 million and McCain raised $47.5 million, their reports show. Obama ended the month with more than $77 million in the bank; McCain ended with $27 million.
Unlike Obama, McCain is accepting $84 million in public money for the remaining two months of the campaign. That means he can’t keep his surplus cash and has turned it over to national and state Republican party committees that can assist him in the fall.
McCain’s fundraising included more than $9 million raised in the three days after he announced his selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate on Aug. 29.
McCain spent about $23 million on advertising, his highest as he jockeyed for position against Obama in battleground states. Obama vastly outspent him — about $33 million — as he practically matched McCain’s advertising in several key states and tried to expand his field to typically Republican-voting states such as Alaska and Georgia.
Obama has since pulled out of those two states, but has continued to have an ad presence in GOP-leaning states such as Montana and North Dakota. He and McCain are also competing in the previously Republican territory of Virginia and North Carolina.
McCain increased his staff spending, building up a payroll of nearly $1.2 million. He also spent more than $3 million on travel, at least twice as much as what he spent in July.
Obama, however, was ahead of him in those categories as well. Obama spent about $2.8 million on payroll, an increase over his July spending. He also spent nearly $4.9 million on travel.
In a report filed Saturday, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton showed only $1.8 million in donations in August, despite Obama’s appeal to his top donors to help his Democratic primary rival retire her debt. She still owed about $9 million to her campaign vendors. Clinton loaned her campaign nearly $13.2 million. Under campaign finance laws, now that Obama is officially the party nominee, she can only raise money to recoup $250,000 of that loan.
Clinton refunded donors $16.7 million in contributions she received for the general election — money she could not use to pay her primary debts. She also transferred $6.5 million in general election funds to her Senate re-election committee.
The Obama-McCain money race is an important element at this stage of the contest, as both campaigns are seeking to influence voters with ads and build sizable ground organizations to register and mobilize voters in more than a dozen contested states. The campaigns are especially aware of mail-in or absentee voting schedules in some of those states and are spending money to get as many early votes as they can.
McCain also filed a report for the general election — McCain-Palin 2008. He also raised money for a general election compliance fund — an account he can only use to pay for legal and accounting expenses.
McCain used the compliance fund to lend McCain-Palin 2008 a net $4.7 million for the general election. Such a loan is permissible because the campaign could not raise private money after Sept. 1, but was not entitled to receive the public funds until Sept. 5, after McCain had accepted the nomination. That money was used to prepay for advertising that aired the first week of September and must be repaid from the $84 million in public funds.
Both candidates are also helping their respective national parties raise money. The parties can spend money on behalf of their presidential candidates — up to $19 million can be coordinated with the campaigns, other funds can be used to pay for get out the vote efforts, for hybrid ads that mention the presidential candidate, or independent expenditures that help the candidates but cannot be coordinated with the presidential campaigns.
The McCain campaign transferred about $18 million to the Republican National Committee and about $9 million to various state Republican committees, party and campaign officials said.
The RNC reported $76.5 million in the bank at the beginning of September before obtaining the McCain camp’s leftover cash. The Democratic National Committee reported $17.7 million cash on hand at the end of August.
That means both campaigns were roughly on even footing, putting a burden on Obama and the DNC to surpass McCain’s $84 million in public funds and any major contributions raised by the RNC.
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