Is Ron Paul's campaign better with money than Mitt Romney's?

Six percent of Ron Paul’s campaign spending goes to fundraising, mainly via Internet 'money bombs.' Mitt Romney's campaign spends 23 percent of what he raises to do the same thing.

LM Otero/AP/File
Supporters of Rep. Ron Paul (R) of Texas cheer his speech during a breakout session of the Texas Republican Convention in Fort Worth earlier this month. Congressman Paul depends on Internet 'money bombs,' backed by supporters, to fund his campaign.

Ron Paul had a pretty good May, money-wise. According to his just-filed Federal Election Commission financial disclosure form he raised $1.78 million during the month, despite the fact that Mitt Romney is now the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. And Mr. Paul entered June with no listed debt and $3.28 million in the bank. That’s $800,000 more in cash on hand than he had at the end of April.

So the Texas libertarian is in decent financial shape as he heads into the summer. He’s certainly better off than, say, Newt Gingrich, whose defunct campaign still owed over $4.7 million to various vendors last time we looked.

But what’s Paul’s spending pattern? As it happens, we think where his money goes is as interesting as how much he has, if not more so. Compare Paul’s balance sheet with Mr. Romney’s, and one might come to this conclusion: Paul’s campaign is more efficiently run.

You don’t see this just flipping through the line items in the latest report. (Although we would like to know who in the Paul campaign is spending all that money at Whole Foods. WalMart has groceries, and they’re cheaper.)

In May, Paul’s biggest expenditure was $297,852 in credit card payments. Next was $116,338 in airfare. His campaign spent $104,795 on hotels, then $81,750 on political consultants.

The picture becomes clearer when these payments are grouped into larger categories. The experts at the Center for Responsive Politics have done this for the whole 2012 cycle. (For the record, they haven’t yet patched Paul’s May report into their findings.) What they found is that overall 26.7 percent of Paul’s expenditures have gone to campaign administration. The comparable figure for the Romney campaign is a bit better, at 23.8 percent. Twenty-nine percent of Paul’s spending has gone to media – ad production, airtime, and such. That’s almost the same as Romney’s comparable 30 percent.

But what really jumps out is the cost of soliciting all that cash to begin with. Six percent of Ron Paul’s spending goes to fundraising. Romney devotes almost a quarter of his entire budget – 23 percent – to the same thing.

The reason for this is obvious. Romney raises money the old-fashioned way, a meal-based fundraiser at a time. Paul runs online “money bombs” and gets contributions in small contributions via the Web. That’s cheaper and takes much less of the candidate’s time.

Perhaps due to this, Paul is able to devote a significantly larger share of his budget, 37 percent, to campaign expenses. Romney’s comparable figure is 21 percent. Yes, Romney is dealing in bigger sums – through April he raised just under three times as much as Paul. But who is running on their business acumen here – the Bain Capital honcho, or the lawmaker/physician?

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