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For many businesses, 2010 midterm election campaign was a winner
GMMB Inc., a media consulting firm that worked on Barack Obama's 2008 presidential race, took in at least $116 million from clients including the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), records show.
AKPD Message and Media, a Chicago consulting firm founded by White House adviser David Axelrod, has taken in about $6 million from Democrats in this cycle, records show. Axelrod is expected to return to AKPD next year in anticipation of Obama's 2012 reelection effort.
Another top Democratic firm, Media Strategies and Research of Denver, billed at least $47 million for its work on about 18 House and Senate contests. The firm's president, Jon Hutchens, said a broad playing field and an influx of money by independent conservative groups helped drive the spending.
"We certainly knew it was going to be a bigger year," he said. "There were just so many more races in play."
On the Republican side, one of the top recipients was Crossroads Media, whose business included advertising accounts for American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, two conservative groups founded with help from GOP strategist Karl Rove. Crossroads Media has been paid more than $40 million, records show.
Banks, credit card companies and check-processing firms also made out big, taking in more than $140 million, records show. Top billers included American Express, Bank of America and ADP, a payroll firm. Direct-mail and printing firms received at least $95 million from campaigns.
Gauging the macroeconomic impact of all this activity isn't easy, experts say. Moody's economist Mark Zandi said election expenditures are "clearly adding to economic activity" but probably would have less impact per dollar than a direct government spending program such as President Obama's stimulus effort.
Parties' spending trends
Federal Election Commission records reveal notable differences in spending patterns between the two parties. Republicans, for example, spent twice as much on country clubs and golf courses, while Democrats spent more on caterers and liquor.
The Democratic National Committee spent $41,000 for memberships at a Results gym about seven blocks from its Washington headquarters. The Michigan Republican Party spent $217 for memberships at the YMCA. But those liberals-and-lattes jokes may be outdated; Democrats spent at least $24,000 at Starbucks, but Republicans spent more than $17,000 at the coffee retailer as well.
Many businesses that serve politicians tend to focus on one party. Arlington's Design Cuisine received most of its political business from Republicans.
"We had a great fall season," said chief executive Kathy Valentine, who also cited an increase in corporate business.
Avalon Caterers of Alexandria specializes in the other party, receiving more than $300,000 this cycle from the Democratic National Committee. Owner Anita Ellis said her clients this year generally sought to keep things simple.