It value greater than $160 million for Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida to come back in second place in a single nominating contest.
That astounding sum makes Mr. DeSantis’s failed presidential bid among the many most costly in fashionable Republican major elections. However the particulars of the place the cash went, specified by filings to the Federal Election Fee on Wednesday, present simply how free-spending Mr. DeSantis and his allied tremendous PACs had been.
They directed a minimum of $53 million via companies managed or owned by Jeff Roe, the highly effective Republican strategist who served as the highest adviser to By no means Again Down, Mr. DeSantis’s most important tremendous PAC.
They spent $31.3 million on tv promoting time.
They spent a minimum of $3.3 million on personal airfare, between the marketing campaign and By no means Again Down.
And so they donated roughly $110,000 to the campaigns of state and federal elected officers who had endorsed Mr. DeSantis.
All for 23,420 votes in Iowa.
The majority of the cash — $130 million — was spent by By no means Again Down. The tremendous PAC was speculated to be Mr. DeSantis’s secret weapon in his quest to take down former President Donald J. Trump, together with via an bold canvassing operation constructed to knock on the doorways of DeSantis supporters as many as 5 instances. His marketing campaign spent a further $28 million.
The enormously expensive effort produced negligible outcomes, and Mr. DeSantis determined to drop out earlier than the New Hampshire major and endorse Mr. Trump. But it surely did check the boundaries of marketing campaign finance regulation.
By no means Again Down took an unprecedented function in managing Mr. DeSantis’s marketing campaign, regardless that campaigns and tremendous PACs should not allowed to coordinate their methods. Mr. DeSantis handed over many duties historically overseen by marketing campaign officers — like arranging occasions and organizing get-out-the-vote efforts — to the skin group.
The awkward association left key choices within the arms of tremendous PAC leaders, reasonably than Mr. DeSantis’s tight circle of trusted advisers. Tensions between By no means Again Down and the marketing campaign generated flurries of detrimental information tales that typically overshadowed Mr. DeSantis’s candidacy, notably amongst rich donors.
Representatives for the DeSantis marketing campaign and By no means Again Down didn’t reply to requests for remark. Neither did Mr. Roe.
Mr. DeSantis was not the one Republican candidate this cycle to spend huge sums solely to drop out. Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina entered the race with $22 million in his marketing campaign coffers, carried over from his 2022 re-election bid. Inside weeks, a brilliant PAC backing him had raised a further $20 million.
However by the autumn, Mr. Scott’s fund-raising stream was drying up as enthusiasm for his candidacy dipped, new federal filings present. His teams spent closely, with the marketing campaign spending greater than $30 million in all and the tremendous PAC laying out $21.8 million, together with about $15 million in promoting.
Particulars of his spending are onerous to discern, as a result of massive chunks of the cash went to 2 limited-liability corporations with no different obvious enterprise, based mostly at suburban Staples shops.
Ultimately, Mr. Scott didn’t even make it to Iowa, dropping out in November.
The entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy put $25.6 million of his personal cash into his marketing campaign, in loans and contributions, earlier than departing the race after coming in fourth place in Iowa. On the finish of December, his marketing campaign had $1.5 million left. An excellent PAC backing him raised $8.7 million and spent practically all of it.
Gov. Doug Burgum of North Dakota, a rich businessman, lent his marketing campaign $14.8 million; the marketing campaign spent $17.8 million earlier than he left the race in December. An excellent PAC backing him raised $24.1 million and spent $24 million.
However Mr. DeSantis’s bid, and its collapse, stand out for his or her scale. Apart from Mr. Trump, no different candidate entered the race with extra monetary assist, extra hype or larger ballot numbers.
By the point Mr. DeSantis entered the race in late Could, By no means Again Down had a struggle chest of practically $120 million, together with greater than $80 million left over from Mr. DeSantis’s re-election as governor of Florida. In his first six weeks as a candidate, his marketing campaign additionally raised greater than $20 million. (Not like campaigns, tremendous PACs are allowed to simply accept limitless sums of cash from donors, making them a car for the ultrawealthy to assist candidates.)
By no means Again Down deliberate a $100 million floor sport to mobilize voters throughout the nation, together with an enormous voter-outreach push that may deploy paid door-knockers to succeed in out to seemingly DeSantis voters in early nominating states. The group pledged to boost $200 million.
Warning indicators quickly emerged.
Mr. DeSantis insisted on flying on personal plane, a behavior he picked up throughout his time in Tallahassee — and an unsustainable one for a candidate who was not independently rich.
The marketing campaign spent past its means in its opening weeks, prompting a reshuffling and deep workers cuts in July. By no means Again Down, which had additionally been laying out massive sums of cash, picked up a lot of the slack, information present, together with footing the invoice for Mr. DeSantis’s flights.
Mr. Roe was a central determine within the DeSantis candidacy, and the massive sum that went via his corporations displays his ambitions to run the nation’s largest political consulting agency. At instances, he drew undesirable publicity to the marketing campaign, and he was additionally a goal of mockery by Mr. Trump’s surrogates. He left the tremendous PAC in December, because the group collapsed in turmoil.
By no means Again Down additionally quietly despatched a few of its cash, $2.75 million, to Win It Again, a brilliant PAC supported by the Membership for Development, an influential conservative anti-tax group. Across the identical time, Win It Again ran a sequence of anti-Trump ads. The contribution was not revealed till after Mr. DeSantis had dropped out.
Whereas Mr. DeSantis pulled his punches in opposition to Mr. Trump for a lot of the marketing campaign, the donation illustrated how tremendous PACs can be utilized to do a candidate’s soiled work with out leaving many fingerprints.
Win It Again finally pulled the advertisements, saying it had discovered they had been unpopular with Republican voters — an indication of the obvious futility of difficult Mr. Trump in a G.O.P. major.
Via all of it, Mr. DeSantis’s fund-raising was slowing, as his ballot numbers plummeted and his shaky moments as a candidate piled up. Whereas Mr. DeSantis had begun the race because the darling of many conservative donors hoping to maneuver on from Mr. Trump, the Florida governor noticed a lot of that assist leak away, first to Mr. Scott after which to former Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina, who stays within the contest.
Mr. DeSantis’s marketing campaign raised much less and fewer cash every quarter of 2023; By no means Again Down raised simply $14.5 million within the second half of the 12 months.
Allies of Mr. DeSantis jumped in to assist out, beginning their very own tremendous PACs that had been seeded with cash from By no means Again Down. The formation of the brand new teams, Struggle Proper and Good Struggle, led to tensions at By no means Again Down, the place many prime officers stop or had been fired.
Struggle Proper and Good Struggle took over tv promoting whereas By no means Again Down centered on get-out-the-vote operations, a transfer publicly inspired by the DeSantis marketing campaign.
The 2 new tremendous PACs spent $13.8 million on tv ads in Iowa. A lot of their cash got here from transfers from By no means Again Down and Nice American Comeback whereas only a fraction got here from donors, primarily rich Floridians loyal to Mr. DeSantis, in addition to CDR Enterprises, a serious state contractor.
By the tip of 2023, By no means Again Down had spent each penny of the $120 million in its coffers when Mr. DeSantis started his candidacy, after which some.
Three weeks later, Mr. DeSantis was out of the race.