The debt puts Gingrich further behind in his ability to match opponents’ spending in early-voting states, where he has just started to pay for advertising and is scrambling to catch up on staffing. He has been forced to scrimp on even basic expenses for much of the campaign and has only recently been able to expand his office presence in Iowa and South Carolina.
Although campaigns often operate in the red, Gingrich’s debts are unusually high — he spent nearly $3 for every $2 he raised. Mitt Romney, by contrast, reported no debt last quarter.
Many of the bills date to the start of Gingrich’s campaign in the spring, a time marked by extravagant spending on $30,000 jet flights and upscale hotels. The high campaign expenditures, along with Gingrich’s personal spending on Tiffany jewelry and a cruise in the Greek isles, contributed to a mass resignation of staffers in June that nearly torpedoed his presidential aspirations.
“We are beginning to pay off our debts and obligations that the campaign owed. That will be an ongoing process,” campaign spokesman R.C. Hammond said. “We have passed a threshold here. Our fundraising has been consistently good for a number of weeks.”
Gingrich’s financial health could prove crucial in the coming weeks as he attempts to hold on to his sudden lead over Romney and other Republican candidates in many state and national polls. Romney reported raising $32 million through September — more than 10 times the amount Gingrich reported — allowing him to easily fund major advertisements and organizing efforts for early contests in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.
Gingrich aides say he is catching up after a surge of fundraising in recent weeks, and the campaign aired its first television commercial on Monday with a $250,000 ad buy in Iowa.
“I think we’ll have enough money,” Gingrich told reporters in Johnston, Iowa, last week. “We’ll never have as much money as Mitt Romney, but I think we’ll have enough money. We’ll have a sufficiency to be very, very competitive.”
Bills for private jets
Nearly half of what Gingrich owed at the end of the third quarter was due to Moby Dick Airways, a private jet broker, which has been waiting since June for more than $451,000 from the campaign. The company arranges private charter flights for Republican politicians, speechmakers and other public figures, and it earned more than $6.6 million in business from Gingrich’s now-defunct nonprofit group, American Solutions for Winning the Future.