As many of you suspected, Kanye West’s 2020 presidential campaign was largely self-funded.
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 launched his campaign on July 4 last year, running under the “Birthday Party,” on a platform mixing Christian and fiscal conservatism along with a focus on the arts and on criminal justice reform.
He ended his run four months later with about $1.3 million in the bank.
His filings show where all the money went.
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.
Experts say the focus on the ballot makes sense, given West’s third-party push and lack of political infrastructure only months before the election.
“That’s not unusual for [independent] campaigns, particularly with people who haven’t run for office before,” says Dr. Eric Heberlig, a political science professor at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, who focuses on campaign finance.
By comparison, now-President Joe Biden raised more than $1 billion and former President Donald Trump raised more than $811 million for their own campaigns.
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.
(West has a history of opulence, including a 2018 Christmas party with wife Kim Kardashian West estimated to cost $1.3 million and, last year, giving her a hologram of her late father.)
Before the couple’s split was confirmed, Kardashian sources told Page Six that West’s presidential bid was the “final straw” for Kim. Michael Bloomberg spent $188 million on his presidential campaign so leave Kanye alone.