It’s not as if the California attorney general had money to burn, either. She’s already spent more than 40 percent of the $6 million she’s raised since becoming a candidate in January, an alarming burn rate for a candidate who is also on her second campaign manager and third finance director. In her latest fundraising report, covering the period of July through September, the discrepancy between money coming in and money going out was especially acute: $1.8 million to $1.4 million.
Harris is one of the election cycle’s most high-profile Senate candidates, an attorney general with close ties to President Obama and enough star power to nearly clear the field in California’s first open-seat Senate race in more than 20 years. She’s been endorsed by Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren and EMILY's List, and in California’s top-two primary system, she faces her stiffest competition from Democratic Rep. Loretta Sanchez and only token Republican opposition.
But her high-priced expenses, staff turnover, and anemic fundraising have dimmed her aura of inevitability, and among her former and current allies, there’s already a proliferation of finger-pointing over who, exactly, is to blame.
“Harris’s frivolous spending on airfare, luxury cars, and hotels is highly unusual for a Senate candidate that has a relatively competitive race,” said the national Democratic strategist. “And the campaign is in the financial mess that it’s in because of its decision to do those things.”
Harris campaign officials declined to offer a specific rationale for the some of the seemingly ostentatious purchases, saying instead in a statement that the expenses were necessary to raise money. “Those line items in the report reflect a mix of staff and candidate travel, fundraising and event expenditures for fundraising events across the country,” said Nathan Click, campaign spokesman.
A source inside the campaign, however, confirms that the three most expensive stays—twice at the St. Regis and once at the Houstonian—were all for the attorney general herself.
And the campaign’s splurges aren’t limited to hotels. Since Harris announced she would run for Senate in January, the campaign has spent nearly $20,000 on luxury car services and purchased expensive airfare—with some trips costing nearly $2,500.
In July, per FEC reports, it doled out $3,900 to MVP Luxury Transport, a private car service in Martha’s Vineyard that boasts on its website of letting customers avoid the “headache of crowded taxis, boat reservations, or costly car rentals.” It also spent almost $9,000 on cars over the course of 12 payments to Potomac View Transportation, which provides its services in the Washington area.
Outlays for airline tickets were similarly pricey. The campaign spent more than $1,000 on airfare 13 times—another five times, it spent more than $2,000, according to FEC reports. On June 26, it paid American Airlines $2,471 on the same day it paid United Airlines, Inc. $2,155. On May 8, the campaign spent $2,457 on tickets from Virgin America.