The campaigns of Mitt Romney and Barack Obama have paid a combined $45 million to businesses and consultants from Massachusetts, making the Bay State the nation’s number one recipient of presidential campaign spending by a long shot.
If big-money politics is a bad thing - as three-quarters of Americans believe it is, according to a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll - this is its silver lining.
“There’s a rule of thumb that a presidential visit affects a local economy for the next three years,’’ said Sandra Lippens, owner of Tilton Tents and Party Rentals in Vineyard Haven. “It’s a boost to the economy generally, not just what the candidates spend.’’
Some of the money spent here has ended up in other states. For example, almost $20 million given to American Rambler Productions, the Beverly company that produces Romney’s advertisements, has gone toward placing ads all over the country. But even with those payments excluded, Massachusetts has still collected more from candidates’ spending than almost any other state.
Expense reports filed with the Federal Election Commission show 13 cents of every dollar spent by the two candidates has been pumped into the Massachusetts economy.
For all their celebrity, presidential candidates sometimes shop for services by old-fashioned word of mouth, which can lead them to mom-and-pop businesses.
That’s how Lippens’s company became a go-to source for tent rentals by visiting politicians, including President Obama, whose fund-raiser on Martha’s Vineyard last summer meant a $10,000 payday for Tilton Tents. As Lippens tells it, a local woman named Susie Trees had earlier recommended Tilton to President Bill Clinton through her father, who worked for Clinton.
After furnishing tents for one event, Tilton Tents became a regular supplier to Clinton throughout the 1990s on his frequent trips to the island. Lippens credits the Clinton visits with making Martha’s Vineyard a more popular vacation spot and driving business to local companies like hers.
“It has helped make my life and a lot of other people’s lives very, very comfortable,’’ Lippens said.
There are scores of Massachusetts businesses, like Tilton, that owe at least a little additional revenue to this year’s presidential race. Most of the money spent in Massachusetts has come from the Romney camp, which knows the Massachusetts business scene well; he governed the state from 2003 to 2007 and has his campaign headquarters in Boston.
But Massachusetts is an Obama favorite also; he has spent more money in only four other places: Washington, D.C.; his home state of Illinois; neighboring Wisconsin; and California.
Washington ranks second in combined spending by the two campaigns, $11 million behind Massachusetts.
The biggest election-year beneficiary in the Bay State has been SJZ LLC, a firm run by Romney’s national finance director, Spencer J. Zwick, which has collected $7.4 million in fund-raising consulting fees.
American Rambler Productions - named for the car Romney’s father, George, helped develop - has earned $4.7 million. The production company shares a four-story office building in Beverly with three other major Romney campaign contractors. Red Curve Solutions has been paid $1.2 million for advising the campaign on compliance with federal election rules, and Easterly Capital and Skyshoe II have been paid about $800,000 and $200,000, respectively, for air travel.
‘Political campaign season always gives us a bit of a boost, but we’ve never done anything quite this big.’Kris Potter Cambridge Offset Printing
All four companies are run by current or former Romney campaign aides. The campaign did not respond to questions about how many jobs have been created by its contracts with the companies.
At Cambridge Offset Printing, work for the Romney campaign has not led to any new permanent positions, but it will probably contribute to jobs for temporary workers in the fall, according to owner Kris Potter. Potter’s company has printed campaign literature for Romney and affiliated political action committees since his 2002 gubernatorial run.
This year, Cambridge Offset Printing has been responsible for much of the Romney campaign’s letterhead and envelopes - more than $125,000 worth of business.
“Political campaign season always gives us a bit of a boost, but we’ve never done anything quite this big,’’ Potter said.
Her company has built such a reputation for good work that it performs printing services for political candidates from both parties - sometimes even opponents.
When demand is high, as it probably will be this autumn, Cambridge Offset Printing’s nine employees work extra hours and are joined by temporary workers, Potter said.
The city of Cambridge is the origin not only of pro-Romney literature but also of many pro-Obama telephone calls. The president’s reelection campaign has paid $1.7 million to Integral Resources Inc. for telemarketing and more than $500,000 to another company, PDR II DBA Share, for the same service. Both telemarketers have offices in Cambridge.
The Obama campaign did not respond to questions about local spending.
At Romney headquarters in the North End, workers from Beverly-based OCI Office Concepts Inc. are frequent visitors, according to Rick Vitale, the company’s general manager.
“We’ve been busy the last couple of months,’’ Vitale said. “Our guys are probably there a couple times each week, not necessarily bringing new supplies but moving stuff from floor to floor.’’
Vitale characterized the Romney campaign as “very frugal,’’ saying his company has installed mostly used and donated furniture.
Still, the campaign has placed some big orders. Between April 9 and 28, as Romney expanded his staff for the general election, the campaign bought more than $86,000 of equipment and furniture from OCI. The company’s total revenue from the Romney campaign exceeds $140,000.
Among the more than 500 local entities that have been paid by the Romney and Obama campaigns, only 10 have done business with both. The short list includes Dunkin’ Donuts, Winston Flowers, and the Globe, to which both campaigns subscribe.Callum Borchers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @callumborchers.