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Amex, Facebook, Uber among those raking in millions from 2020 contenders

The 2020 elections are shaping up to be the most expensive in U.S. history — giving some companies a revenue boost in the process.

Even with technology giants and financial institutions in the political crosshairs, at least 9 companies — including American Express, Facebook, and ride-hailing giants Uber and Lyft — have benefited from a tsunami of campaign spending.

In total, the camps of President Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Joe Biden and Mike Bloomberg have spent over $103 million, according to a Yahoo Finance analysis. Others on the list include Square, Stripe, ADP, Shopify, and Insperity, Federal Election Commission filings show.

Despite drawing criticism from several presidential candidates, the 7 campaigns shelled out $52 million at the social network’s digital advertising platform. Trump’s campaign spent the most, paying over $19 million to Facebook, according to Facebook’s ad library report. Big money was also spent on logistical items like American Express bills, and taking care of payroll.

To be certain, political spending represents a fraction of the billions that most of the afore-mentioned companies pull in regularly.

For example, Facebook — which has come in for withering criticism about its political ad policy — has taken pains to point out that campaign spending is less than a percent of its total ad revenue. And political spending is a mere fraction of the $18.13 billion in gross bookings Uber took in last quarter, or the more than $11 billion in revenue reported by Amex.

WAVERLY, IA - JANUARY 25: Yard signs for Andrew Yang, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, and Bernie Sanders are seen in Jim Monaghan's front yard in Waverly, IA on Jan. 25, 2020. All across this frozen, snow-covered state, folks are grinding their teeth and griping to one another about the inescapable onslaught of text messages, TV ads, and mailboxes stuffed with political literature. The campaign phone calls have been endless. Social media feeds are so jammed with messaging that it can be impossible to scroll through family photos on Facebook without enduring the pleading overtures of the various Democratic hopefuls. Its only grown worse as next Mondays caucus approaches.

With that being said, the data shows various campaigns spending lavishly on multibillion dollar platforms they call out for bad behavior.

For example, Sanders — the Vermont Senator and current Democratic frontrunner — shelled out a staggering $24.4 million in 2019 for human resources management services from ADP. Trump’s campaign preferred to receive their human resources services from Insperity, paying nearly $470,000 for their services. 

Amex and its travel arm also pulled in $25 million, according to FEC filings. However, credit cards typically make revenue off interest payments; it’s unclear whether campaigns paid their bills off in full each month. 

When it came to travel, Uber and Lyft each earned over $100,000 from the campaigns, though some spent more than others.

The Trump campaign is a heavy Uber user, spending $40,000 on the service — while largely snubbing Lyft with just under $436 spent on that platform. The same could be said about the South Bend Mayor, with Buttigieg’s campaign shelling out $24,000 on Uber rides — but only $9,600 on ones from Lyft.


The flip side is true for the Klobuchar and Sanders, campaigns which massively preferred Lyft to Uber. The Minnesota Democrat spent over $50,000 on ride-hailing services, the most of any campaign, shelling out $50,000 on Lyft, but less than $4,000 on those from Uber.

Yet the Sanders campaign spent twice as much on Lyft as Uber: $26,000 and $13,000, respectively.

Of the payment processing companies, Stripe was a clear campaign favorite, pulling in $760,000 last year from the 2020 campaigns. Comparatively, a slim $4,400 was spent on Square. 

E-commerce platform and point-of-sale system provider Shopify was also able to earn money off the elections, as campaigns paid $284,000 to utilize its services.

Despite only entering the race just recently, ex-New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg's campaign managed to outspend the Klobuchar campaign on the companies listed, with $8 million spent on Facebook in 2019 alone. 

But Sanders’ campaign was by far the largest spender at these companies last year — shelling out just under $39 million. He outspent Trump by $17 million, who paid these companies $22 million over the course of the year.

Of the 7 candidates analyzed, Amy Klobuchar spent the least on the companies, with just $3.8 million spent. Former Vice President Joe Biden, whose campaign’s rapid spending depleted his coffers to just $9 million in October, spent the second least of all the candidates, at just over $7 million. 

Warren and Buttigieg, who are roughly neck and neck in national polls, shelled out $12.4 million and $11.3 million respectively.

Kristin Myers is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.

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