In the opening week of his presidential campaign, Texas Gov. George W. Bush served peanuts and potato chips to the high-rollers pouring millions into his treasury. Vice President Gore's announcement tour featured an open bar at New York's lavish Pierre Hotel.
Bush made his maiden voyage to Iowa and New Hampshire with a single paid advance man leading the way. Gore's traveling entourage included about 32 advance staff, half a dozen White House aides, his pollster, speech coach and media adviser.
New campaign finance reports filed Thursday show Gore spending at a far faster clip than either the Republican front-runner or his sole Democratic rival, former senator Bill Bradley. From big-ticket costs like the size of his payroll to single line items such as polling, Gore's massive money report shows he has spared no expense in a campaign that is still attempting to find its footing.
To be certain, his opponents have held fancy ballroom fund-raisers, too. Bradley, for instance, spent $161,000 on an event at the Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers, but campaign spokesman Eric Hauser said the campaign brought in $2 million that night.
More broadly, an analysis of the data shows that while Gore has spent about 47 percent of the $17.5 million he has raised in the first half of 1999, Bush's spending has amounted to just 19 percent of the $37 million he has raised. Bradley has spent 37 percent of his $11.7 million bankroll.
Gore enjoys the advantages of incumbency, but also must pay its price: Travel on Air Force Two, for example, at the rate of first-class air fare, cost him more than $188,000. And Gore has spent disproportionately larger sums to bring in money, both through the mail and in events at famous eateries such as The Palm in Washington and California's Beverly Hilton.
His aides contend the vice president is making wise investments for the future.
"We built a strong infrastructure that will last through the general election and has helped us build a 40-point lead over our primary opponent," said campaign spokesman Roger Salazar. "We're doing the things necessary to building a winning campaign."
While Gore is hardly the first presidential candidate to invest heavily in the early going, he may not like the historical precedents. At the end of the second quarter of 1995, Phil Gramm had spent about 62 percent of his bank account, and Robert J. Dole had drained half of his. President Clinton's campaign, on the other hand, run by the famously tight-fisted Harold Ickes, had spent just one-third of its $9.6 million war chest.
The thousands of pages of documents filed at the Federal Election Commission offer a glimpse into the strategies and mind-sets of the men running for president. Reports by Bradley, Gore and several other candidates were filed electronically and Public Disclosure Inc., a private firm run by two former FEC officials, helped analyze the data.
Because Bush has decided to forgo federal matching funds and spend unlimited amounts in the primaries, his campaign did not file an electronic version of its expenditures and it is not possible to do a comparable detailed analysis of his spending. The governor's spokeswoman, Karen Hughes, provided some cost estimates.
The contrast between the Bush and Gore operations is perhaps most stark in the area of personnel.
Gore, a product of Washington politics from the day he was born, has spent $228,000 on polling, all but $5,000 of it going to Penn, Schoen and Berland -- the same team that polls for the president, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton's Senate campaign, the Democratic National Committee and Microsoft.
"Our fee would be for an extensive team of people and all the interviewing, processing and analysis," said Mark Penn. "What we've been doing has been on budget and on plan."
By comparison, Bradley has paid pollster Diane Feldman a mere $20,000 and Bush has spent about $53,000 on polling.
Although Gore's campaign chairman Tony Coelho is volunteering, the campaign is adding other high-priced talent including pollsters Mark Mellman and Celinda Lake, media consultant Carter Eskew and spokeswoman Kiki Moore. He has already paid the media firm of Squier Knapp Communications $83,000 for "filming," according to partner Bob Squier.
In the second quarter, Gore 2000 had 116 paid campaign staffers and dozens of advance aides who are paid by the job.
About 90 people are on the Bradley payroll. Among his more expensive consultants are Anita Dunn ($62,422) and the political consulting firm MacWilliams, Cosgrove, Smith, Robinson ($85,000). Betty Sapoch, one of his top fund-raisers, received $90,000 in consulting fees this year.
"We work pretty hard at keeping costs down," said Hauser, Bradley's campaign spokesman. Noting Bradley's far lower polling figures, he added: "The figures reflect a difference in approach to developing a message."
Bradley, with no other job, has traveled extensively this year. Yet by flying commercial with few aides, his travel costs for the first half of 1999 came to half of Gore's $638,000.
Bush is almost ostentatiously cheap. When Bush hosted a thank-you party last month for Texas contributors, they were greeted with a simple note card: "Enjoy your peanuts and snacks! Texas money will be saved for Iowa and New Hampshire." His inaugural tour cost less than $200,000 -- half the cost of Gore's, according to estimates from the two campaigns.
Overall, Bush spent about $1 million on fund-raising parties and meetings to help bring in $37 million, according to Hughes. Based on the computer analysis, Gore appears to have spent more -- $1.4 million on hotels, catering and other event-related costs -- and raised less than half Bush's take.
Hughes did not say how many people work for the Bush campaign, but stressed that virtually every Bush adviser -- even lead strategist Karl Rove -- is on the payroll. She said Bush has offices in Texas, Iowa and New Hampshire.
Aside from a candidate himself who is notoriously tight-fisted, Bush campaign officials said the designated "Dr. No" on spending is campaign manager Joe Allbaugh, an imposing man with the build of a football linebacker.
One Republican fund-raiser recalled a recent trip to Austin when he witnessed firsthand the Allbaugh ability to say no. Approached to approve $10,000 in expenses, Allbaugh instead tore up the piece of paper, ignoring the aide's response that it was a project signed off on by Allbaugh himself.
The Bush team learned from the lessons of 1992 when it was President Bush's campaign that bore the high-price of incumbency.
"Back then, we were the people with the overhead. We were the people with the consultants. We were the people with the staggering costs," said one top fund-raiser who has helped both father and son. "It's a complete role reversal from 1992."
The campaign did not stint however in paying the way for Bush's father. Former President Bush, who headlined the campaign's very first fund-raiser, received $4,465 in travel expense reimbursements.
Database editor Sarah Cohen contributed to this report.