I still hate the fact that we have to treat Kanye West as a “former presidential candidate,” and that news outlets are giving his 2020 “campaign” a thin veneer of legitimacy. It feels like Kanye’s “campaign” was one small part of the larger issue of too many Americans not understanding how political campaigns work, much less how the government works. Too many people thought that Kanye was going to be some kind of disrupter to the system, just like too many people still think that a president can wave a magic wand and pass a comprehensive agenda. Kanye was a symptom of the much larger issues of civic ignorance and institutionalized election fraud. While Kanye’s campaign went out with a whimper, I’d still like to see the Federal Election Commission investigate how the Trump campaign illegally colluded with Kanye in an attempt to siphon voters away from the Democratic candidate. Speaking of, Kanye’s FEC filings have been made public and they’re a f–king mess.
Kanye West spent $13.2 million — or approximately $200 for every vote — on his failed 2020 presidential campaign, a review of campaign finance filings show. West, 43, contributed nearly $12.5 million of his own money while raising a little more than $2 million from outside contributions, according to his final Federal Election Commission report. In all, the rapper and designer raised $14.5 million to fund his late-in-the-cycle bid, in which he barely qualified for the ballot in a dozen states and earned only about 66,000 votes nationally.
West’s campaign spent more than $7.5 million on fees related to “ballot access,” including $1.28 million in payments to Atlas Strategy Group. Gregg Keller, a Republican strategist who reportedly was considered to lead Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, owns Atlas and said he was a senior strategist with West’s campaign. Ultimately, however, West only got his name on 12 state ballots as he faced significant challenges where he had to gather tens of thousands of resident signatures.
His belief in himself seems to have outpaced voter enthusiasm. In one case, West paid a $35,000 fee to get his name on the ballot in Oklahoma. Then he received less than 6,000 votes in Oklahoma. His campaign’s other top spending centered on legal fees, production for online videos he used to promote his campaign and “Kanye 2020″ apparel — which in some cases listed buyers as campaign contributors. (One California man who spent $4,200 on campaign apparel tells PEOPLE he didn’t know that money was going to support West’s bid: “I am a Kanye fan but I didn’t support his campaign,” the buyer says, explaining he merely flipped the clothes he bought online.)
West’s campaign notably did not spend on television, radio or digital advertising, according to the filings. “For most campaigns, their largest set of expenses are advertising,” Heberlig says.
“I didn’t see any Kanye ads, did you?” a former West campaign operative tells PEOPLE, maintaining that “if [West] had pushed and done a $10 million buy digitally, they could’ve actually made a difference in a few states. Typically, [television and digital ads] combine for about 60-70 percent of a campaign’s budget — minimum,” the source says.
West’s filings show he pumped more than $2.7 million of his own money into the campaign even during the final four weeks of the race. For example, public records show he spent $210,544 on a two-page ad in The New York Times one week ahead of the election and spent $918,130 on campaign apparel on Election Day. “They overpaid on a lot of stuff,” West’s former operative says.
“It wasn’t your traditional campaign,” says the political source, who aided West’s efforts last summer. “He isn’t versed enough politically. He figured that by doing it on his own, he could control his own media. But he has so much other stuff going on in his life that has nothing to do with politics that the distractions are there.”
The fact that he half-assed everything and left the bulk of the work to Trump-supporting Republican operatives offends me. The fact that this was all just some asinine ego trip offends me, especially because – AGAIN – the mainstream media gave this mess legitimacy. CNN anchors devoted entire segments to whether or not Kanye would siphon Black voters away from Democrats in swing states. Republicans knowingly used a mentally ill man as their front man for a huge con on the electorate, AND they made him pay for most of it. It’s enraging.
Photos courtesy of Backgrid, social media.