Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., garnered attention this morning for the same reason he does every quarter: His campaign released another eye-popping fundraising total. This time, West's camp said he raised over $2.2 million in the second quarter and finished the April-through-June period with more than $3.7 million in the bank.
One figure -- spending -- was missing from West's campaign release, though. Given that West finished the first quarter of 2012 with a bit more than $3.3 million cash on-hand, he must have spent more than three-quarters of what he raised in the most recent reporting period. Part of that went toward a significant TV ad buy, but much of the rest cycled right back into the campaign's fundraising operation.
A source familiar with West's report noted that a substantial amount of money was spent on fundraising and the candidate has already been up on TV.
West's operation runs on a "spend money to make money" principle with a heavy reliance on expensive direct mail to solicit contributions. In the first three months of 2012, West spent over $1 million on fundraising, according to Federal Election Commission filings. That's an uptick from $700,000-plus in fundraising expenditures in each of the two prior quarters, too.
Direct mail fundraising is a tricky proposition for the candidates who use it, and the expenditures that go into the strategy often absorb a major portion of the funds raised. West's national brand makes the system work for him, though it doesn't work for everyone. It does mean, though, that we have to take his topline quarterly fundraising numbers with a grain of salt. West's $2.2 million haul is impressive, but it should come with an asterisk.