NY Times' Zeleny cherry-picked Santorum campaign expenses to suggest extravagant spending by Clinton campaign

››› ››› JOSH KALVEN

New York Times reporter Jeff Zeleny purported to show that "bills for catering, flowers and photography" elevated campaign expenses for Sen. Hillary Clinton, contrasting them with more mundane expenses by Sen. Rick Santorum's campaign. But Zeleny ignored Santorum's more costly expenses; in fact, Santorum's campaign spent more money in the third quarter of 2006 than Clinton's did.

In a November 7 article on the fact that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) "spent more money in the midterm election cycle than any other politician running for office this year," New York Times reporter Jeff Zeleny purported to show that "it is the bills for catering, flowers and photography that elevated her tally far above other Senate candidates'." Citing campaign finance reports for the third quarter, Zeleny noted that Clinton "reported sending a $6,585 check to Flutterbyes for flowers in Las Vegas, $5,397.50 to Le Petit Gourmet Catering in Glendale, Colo., and $80,000 to Tavern on the Green in Manhattan." Zeleny compared her expenses to those reported by Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), whose campaign spending during the same period supposedly "comprises bills like $30.33 at Papa John's pizza, $59.50 at Panera Bread and $74.34 at the Olive Garden." But while the figures cited by Zeleny suggest that Santorum's campaign remained frugal while the Clinton campaign spent extravagantly, they ignore Santorum's more costly expenses. For instance, Zeleny omitted Santorum's expenditures during the same period of $80,000 on chartered jets, nearly $15,000 on a fundraising event at the Metropolitan Club in New York City, and more than $10,000 on catering for a campaign event in Washington, D.C.

Zeleny noted an $80,000 check sent from the Clinton campaign to the Tavern on the Green restaurant in New York City. Clinton's campaign held an October 26 fundraiser at the restaurant to celebrate her 59th birthday; the Times reported on October 28 that the event "netted about $1 million for her re-election campaign."

From Zeleny's November 7 article, headlined "Clinton Is Midterm Campaign's Biggest Spender, Records Show, at $29.5 Million and Counting":

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton has spent more money in the midterm election cycle than any other politician running for office this year, campaign finance records show, investing more than twice as much as most candidates in tight races across the country.

To secure her Democratic re-election bid in New York, Mrs. Clinton spent $29.5 million through the middle of October, according to the Federal Election Commission, suggesting that she may have her sights on a future national campaign. While much of the amount is devoted to television advertising, it is the bills for catering, flowers and photography that elevated her tally far above other Senate candidates'.

While Senator Rick Santorum, Republican of Pennsylvania, spent $21.5 million through the same time period, records show, his spending report comprises bills like $30.33 at Papa John's pizza, $59.50 at Panera Bread and $74.34 at the Olive Garden.

Not so for Mrs. Clinton, whose campaign reported sending a $6,585 check to Flutterbyes for flowers in Las Vegas, $5,397.50 to Le Petit Gourmet Catering in Glendale, Colo., and $80,000 to Tavern on the Green in Manhattan. Those were among the bills gleaned from a page-by-page review of Mrs. Clinton's third-quarter campaign finance report, which showed disbursements of more than $8 million.

But while the Santorum expenses cited by Zeleny -- all under $100 -- are clearly intended to cast Clinton's disbursements as extravagant, they are not representative of Santorum's overall spending. Indeed, a Media Matters examination of his campaign's third quarter campaign finance report -- covering the period from July 1 to September 30 -- found that Santorum's spending was not confined to Papa John's and the Olive Garden, as Zeleny suggested. Following are several of the campaign's pricier expenditures:

  • On July 2 and 3, the Santorum campaign paid Scott Richard Aviation $82,605 in travel costs. According to the company's website, Scott Richard Aviation "has offered private on-demand air charter for over ten years."
  • On July 3, the Santorum campaign paid the Manhattan Club $14,901 for "fundraising event costs."
  • On July 3, the Santorum campaign spent $1,227 in lodging costs at the Stanford Park Hotel in Menlo Park, California. The hotel's website describes it as "the only Five Star Diamond-rated hotel in Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Peninsula."
  • On August 9, the Santorum campaign paid the caterer Maison Blanc $8,372 for campaign event services.
  • On September 22, the Santorum campaign paid The Chadwick -- a "beautifully appointed Banquet and Meeting facility" near Pittsburgh -- $6,014 for campaign event expenses.

Further, Zeleny ignored the fact that Santorum's campaign spent more money during the third quarter than Clinton's. While he noted that the Clinton campaign reported "disbursements of more than $8 million" during the third quarter, he failed to compare this figure to the total reported by Santorum. In fact, Santorum's campaign reported $9,573,410 in third quarter expenses.

Zeleny's suggestion that Santorum is a frugal spender is further contradicted by a recent controversy regarding America's Foundation, the political action committee (PAC) Santorum founded in 2001. A leadership PAC, America's Foundation is intended to raise money for other GOP candidates. But according to campaign finance reports, the PAC has paid for 66 purchases at a Starbucks coffeehouse in Leesburg, Virginia, where Santorum lives, as The American Prospect reported in its March 10 issue.

Posted In
Elections
Network/Outlet
The New York Times
Stories/Interests
Hillary Clinton, 2006 Elections
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.