Democratic Rep. Sean Casten focuses on media buying in 2020 election

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Sean Casten's official photograph from his representative website.

In his first-time incumbent election cycle, Rep. Sean Casten has spent $3,157,127 this election cycle as of October 1, nearly half of what he spent last election cycle. 

In the 2018 congressional election, Democrat Casten spent upwards of $6 million, according to Federal Election Commission records, in his successful effort to become the representative for Illinois’ Sixth Congressional District,

The incumbent at the time, Republican Peter Roskam, had held the position since 2007. Despite Roskam spending slightly more than Casten during the 2017-2018 election cycle, the district elected Casten.

The district includes parts of Cook, DuPage, McHenry, Kane, and Lake counties. 

The majority of Casten’s expenditures for the 2017-2018 election cycle went toward media buying, where he spent approximately $3.8 million on political advertising and consulting at Braddock Road Strategies in Alexandria, Virginia. 

Another large portion of his expenditures during this cycle has gone towards digital consulting, specifically Break Something LLC, located in Washington DC., to further develop his digital campaign and strategy.

“The majority of our spending this cycle will go to paid communications,” said Jacob Vurpillat, Communications Director at Casten for Congress, in an email. 

Break Something LLC is a “full service digital advertising, consulting, and strategy firm specializing in electing Democrats, furthering causes, and creating change,” according to their website. 

Sean Casten’s top ten expenditures during the 2019-2020 election cycle so far.

Including the money spent on digital consulting, Casten’s top-10 expenditures for the 2019-2020 election cycle thus far are:

  • Media Buying: $1,426,602.37 to Braddock Road Strategies, a consulting firm in Alexandria, Virginia.
  • Digital Consulting: $571,198.00 to Break Something LLC, full service digital consulting firm in Washington DC.
  • GOTV Mail Production: $202,043.01 to Moxie Media, a direct mail advertising service in Seattle, Washington. 
  • Payroll: $161,505.67 towards campaign staff
  • Payroll taxes: $83,317.01 to Paychex Inc., a payroll and benefits outsourcing service in Illinois.
  • Credit Card Processing Fee: $82,181.53 towards Act Blue Technical Services, a Democratic online-based fundraising organization.
  • Fundraising Consultant: $75,199.95 to The Conrad Group, a fundraising consulting firm in Washington DC.
  • Polling: $45,150 to Hart Research Associates in Washington DC.
  • Software: $43,960 to NGP Van, a privately owned voter database and web hosting service provider used by the American Democratic Party.
  • Consulting Services: $30,008.26 to Berger Hirschberg Strategies in Washington DC. 

These numbers are in stark contrast to the total reported for his campaign in the 2017-2018 election cycle, when Casten spent $6.7 million, mainly towards media buying, TV advertisements, and digital advertisements. 

Although Break Something LLC is marketed as a digital consulting firm, it also provides a large amount of digital advertising.

Vurpillat said that events like in-person fundraisers now pose significant health risks due to COVID. 

“We’re raising money from grassroots donors primarily in IL-6 through the traditional methods of email and mail, and the new strategy of Zoom events,” said Vurpillat. 

Casten’s opponent, Republican candidate Jean Ives, has spent a total of $2,760,176, the majority of which has gone towards Precision Payroll of America, LLC, a company that is part of the payroll services industry located in Charlotte, North Carolina. 

Ives is also spending a considerable amount on printing and postage, something Casten is not doing as much of in comparison. 

The amounts listed above are the most recent numbers on Casten’s campaign available on the Federal Election Commission’s website, however, the 2019-2020 election cycle is not over yet.

“…the most up-to-date campaign finance for this cycle is through June 30th, 2020,” said Vurpillat, “The majority of campaign spending takes place in September and October, and we are not yet required to report that spending to the FEC.”

The September spending report has since been released; however, the current figures do not account for October expenditures. 

Vurpillat attributes the difference between the campaign expenditures of the past two election cycles to the fact that the months in which the majority of funds are spent have not yet come to pass. 

The FEC is the independent regulatory agency responsible for administering and enforcing federal campaign election laws. According to the FEC, congressional candidates must submit campaign finance reports yearly. 

According to the FEC’s website, the next campaign finance reports are due on November 23rd and should reflect spending from October 1st through October 31st.

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