Friday Edition



The GOP is facing growing scrutiny over how it’s spending its money. (RedState)

A new RedState analysis of Federal Elections Commission data from the past year: The Republican National Committee appears to spend more on what could be classified as vanity and perks categories, including limousines, media booking consultants and floral arrangements. In contrast, the Democratic National Committee spends more on voter outreach and organization efforts, such as GOTV texting, voter file maintenance and transferring funds to state parties.

Source: RedState

Donald Trump, the likely 2024 GOP presidential nominee, spent $50 million in donor cash on legal fees last year, new FEC filings show. Trump’s Save America leadership PAC and the Make America Great Again PAC spent nearly $30 million on legal bills in the second half of 2023 alone. Since April 2022, Save America has paid out $371,000 in consulting fees to Melania Trump’s stylist.

The GOP base has for years accused the party leadership of being more interested in lining its pockets than fighting for conservative issues. Republican voters loved Trump’s pledge to “drain the swamp” (which was aimed at the GOP as much as at Democrats) and wipe out the “RINO” establishment from within. Trumpian figures like Vivek Ramaswamy have demanded more accountability for GOP spending.

Ramaswamy in a statement last year calling for RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel’s resignation: “I am sick and tired of this Republican establishment that has made us a party of losers. Where is the accountability for years of losing: 2018, 2020, 2022 and now 2023.”


Future Forward, a super PAC backing President Biden, is planning to spend $250 million on a wave of TV ads in key swing states. (Ruthless Podcast)

What’s the breakdown of that $250 million (which is said to be the largest ever single political advertising purchase by a super PAC)?

  • $140 million is allocated for television ads and $110 million for digital platforms, including streaming services.

  • The advertising will target seven key battleground states: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

  • Roughly $35 million is being spent on YouTube, with additional funds going to Hulu, Roku, Vevo, Telemundo and Univision streaming services.

  • The ads will particularly target younger voters, Hispanic voters, and Black voters — groups identified as disaffected and disengaged Democrats.

An assessment of the ad buy from the hosts of the Ruthless podcast: “We can talk a lot about national polling. And we can talk a lot about where approval ratings are and likelihood of somebody becoming president. Arizona and Georgia, keep your eyes on it. Just look at what's happening there, because you don't become president without one of the two. … Where this thing is decided is Georgia and Arizona. And if you look at what's happening in Georgia, and we look at what's happening in Arizona, and then you overlay a $250 million ad buy, it should tell you everything you need to know. [Democratic operatives] see that as the way back for Joe Biden.”

A new report catalogues the extent of improper spending and fraud related to pandemic unemployment benefits. (American Enterprise Institute)

An American Enterprise Institute study:

  • Conservative estimates suggest at least $191 billion was misspent, with losses possibly exceeding $240 billion when including all improper payments.

  • The Government Accountability Office and other experts estimate between $100 billion and $135 billion was lost to fraud, with some estimates suggesting losses could reach $400 billion.

  • The improper payment rate was estimated at 21.52% for some benefits programs, which is significantly higher than pre-pandemic improper payment rates.

More pandemic waste: An Associated Press analysis of public records found some of the biggest school systems in America spent tens of millions of dollars in pandemic funds on software that’s shown little to no benefit for students and, in some cases, never been used.

In a sign of how sustainability and business are increasingly intertwined, demand for old corrugated containers (OCC) has increased, with prices more than tripling in some U.S. areas over the past year. (WSJ)

Source: Circular Ventures/Bloomberg Intelligence

The data:

  • Every year the U.S. consumes more than 20 million short tons of OCC, like pizza boxes and other cardboard products.

  • The national average price for OCC was $87 per short ton in January, up from $29 a year ago.

  • More than $7 billion in investments for containerboard manufacturing has been announced since 2019, which will consume over 9 million tons of recycled fiber annually.

Wall Street Journal reporter Ryan Dezember on why it’s happening: “The latest rise is being driven by the opening of several new mills that need used cardboard to make fresh containerboard for corrugated shipping boxes and paperboard, which is folded into cereal boxes and coffee cups.”

Big picture, businesses have found ways to turn the public’s growing environmental consciousness into major bank. A 2022 NielsenIQ survey found 46% of consumers now expect companies to “take the lead on creating sustainable change.” The environmental, social and corporate governance investing trend may have cooled off, but the size of the global ESG market is still north of $30 trillion.

Let’s check in on which social media platforms are most popular with Americans. (Pew Research Center)

Source: Pew Research Center

Digging into the numbers:

  • TikTok usage grew to 33% in 2023 from 21% in 2021.

  • Adults under 30 are significantly more likely to use Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok compared to older adults.

  • The share of U.S. adults who say they use Facebook and YouTube has pretty much stayed the same since 2021, while Instagram usage increased seven percentage points.

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