Democrat Candidates Use Creative Accounting to Boost Financial Reports

MIAMI, FL - JUNE 21: Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) speaks at the Democratic presidential candidates NALEO Candidate Forum on June 21, 2019 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Joe Skipper/Getty Images)
Joe Skipper/Getty Images

Democrats running for the 2020 presidential nomination are using some creative bookkeeping to appear more lucrative on paper than may really be the case.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s (D-MN) Federal Election Commission filings, for example, showed she spent an average of about $55,000 a day on her campaign through June but spent $624,000 on the first day of April, including $300,000 to one vendor.

The Daily Beast reported: 

That massive uptick in expenses was likely due to the fact that April 1 marked the beginning of the new fundraising quarter. By putting off the payments until then, Klobuchar was able to put the best possible spin on her presidential campaign’s financial position during the previous three months. If those expenses had come a day earlier, Klobuchar’s cash on hand figure would have been roughly $6.35 million. Instead, the campaign was able to claim roughly $7 million in reserves—a sum that placed her among the better-positioned Democrats in the presidential race.

A Daily Beast review of campaign finance records indicates that the delayed-expenses strategy has continued through the just completed cycle, and has involved payments to campaign staffers as well.

But Klobuchar isn’t the only Democrat to use the strategy, according to The Daily Beast, with at least four other candidates saying they have “skipped a staff payday at the end of June, putting off that pay period until the beginning of the following month and hence transferring the expense to the next quarter’s balance sheets.”

While this kind of strategic budgeting is not new to political campaigns, it may be more popular now in a crowded field of more than 20 candidates who want to take every opportunity to show momentum.

While Klobuchar didn’t respond to The Daily Beast’s requests for comment, other presidential hopefuls did.

Rep. John Delaney’s (D-MD) campaign staff said the change in schedule was “simply a product of switching to a new payroll management service that restructured that schedule.”

“Sen. Michael Bennett (D-CO) and Gov. Jay Inslee (D-WA) both attributed it to the fact that June 30 was a Sunday, so checks went out the following day,” The Daily Beast reported. 

Still, waiting for Monday serves as a boost for cash-on-hand balances.

It can, however, cause problems for some of the candidates’ biggest supporters — those who work for them.

“I haven’t heard of this practice before but I am not surprised,” said Kim McMurray, an executive council member of the Campaign Workers Guild and a former organizer for 2020 contender Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). “FEC timing deadlines are such an important moment for campaigns to show enthusiasm, support, etc. so campaigns want to show the largest number possible.”

“It is very disappointing if this came at the expense of the workers,” McMurray said.

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