From the Bellagio to Lotus of Siam, here’s how Democratic presidential hopefuls are spending campaign cash in Nevada
Presidential campaign expenditure reports aren’t known for being glitzy. There are trips to Office Depot and Costco for supplies, furniture from IKEA, quick lunches at Panera Bread, rental cars, flights, staff salaries and office rent.
But when your campaign comes to Las Vegas, those reports suddenly get a lot more interesting.
Democratic presidential hopefuls have spent more than $2.1 million in the Silver State since the beginning of the year, according to a review of campaign finance reports covering the first nine months of the year filed with the Federal Election Commission. Among that spending? Tens of thousands of dollars in hotel nights on the Las Vegas Strip and event catering by some of the city’s most loved restaurants.
The candidates have also shelled out thousands of dollars on event rental spaces, permits and security to local government entities, including the cities of Henderson, Las Vegas and North Las Vegas and the Clark and Washoe school districts. (Those sums are, however, unlikely to solve any funding woes.)
Another major beneficiary of campaign spending in the Silver State is the Nevada State Democratic Party, which has taken in nearly $500,000 from Democratic presidential hopefuls in voter file access and event tickets or sponsorships. Those funds will go toward helping the party run Nevada’s Feb. 22 first-in-the-West caucus.
Read below for some of the highlights of where candidates are choosing to spend their hard-earned campaign cash in Nevada.
Hotel and travel
Democratic presidential hopefuls have, collectively, spent the most on lodging at the Vdara, owned by MGM Resorts and tucked behind the Bellagio and across the street from the Aria. Former Vice President Joe Biden has spent the most there by far, about $14,400, though California Sen. Kamala Harris, billionaire Tom Steyer and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg also each dropped significant cash on lodging and travel there.
Another top grossing property was the SLS, which was recently renamed the Sahara. That was mostly thanks to Harris, who spent $17,200 there, while Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders each spent a couple hundred dollars there.
Spending patterns also hint at how the campaigns’ financial constraints of lack thereof may play into decisions about where to stay in Las Vegas.
Steyer, who has pumped at least $47 million of his own money into his campaign, spent $3,000 at the Aria, one of the newer hotels on the Strip with its glossy curved towers and modern interior decor and another MGM property, in the month of September while former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, who has struggled to raise money, spent $2,400 between January and September at the Flamingo, which opened in 1946.
But not all campaigns are spending their entire hotel budgets on the Strip. Sanders spent $7,100 at the Skyline Hotel and Casino on Boulder Highway in Henderson in March. Other campaigns spent smaller amounts of cash at Downtown Las Vegas hotels, including the Downtown Grand, Golden Nugget and the Plaza.
In the north, the Grand Sierra Resort was the most popular hotel for campaigns. Steyer by far outspent his fellow Democratic presidential hopefuls, dropping $10,100 on stays there at the end of September.
Totals spent on lodging can include stays by candidates or their staff. Most of the following amounts were described specifically as “lodging,” though some were described generically as “travel,” which could include non-lodging related expenses.
On the Strip:
- Vdara: $21,900 // Biden spent $14,400 in early May. Harris spent $3,700 in mid-August. Buttigieg spent $1,600 in early May. Steyer spent $2,200 in July, August and September.
- SLS/Sahara: $18,600 // Sanders spent $600 in May and June. Harris spent $17,200 between March and August. Warren spent $800 between March and August.
- Park MGM: $5,600 // Sanders spent $500 in May. Biden spent $5,100 in May.
- MGM Resorts: $4,600 // Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar spent $4,600 on travel in May and August, though her campaign finance report does not specify which MGM Resorts property she stayed at.
- Mandalay Bay: $3,300 // Buttigieg spent $2,500 in May. Warren spent $900 in June and August.
- Aria: $3,000 // Steyer spent $3,000 in September.
- Flamingo Hotel and Casino: $2,400 // Castro spent $2,400 in January, March, May, June and September.
- Bellagio: $1,500 // Gabbard spent $300 in mid-May. Warren spent $1,200 on travel in April, July and August.
- Stratosphere: $700 // Biden spent $300 in August and September. Tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang spent $300 in September
- The Linq: $500 // Warren spent $500 in February and March.
- Caesars Palace: $300 // Harris spent $300 in July.
- MGM Grand: $200 // Self-help author Marianne Williamson spent $50 on campaign travel on July 8. Warren spent $150 in August.
- Wynn Las Vegas: $100 // Harris spent a little less than $100 in July and August.
Off the Strip and Downtown Las Vegas:
- Westin Las Vegas: $7,300 // Williamson spent $6,200 in April, June, July and August. Buttigieg spent $1,100 in April.
- Skyline Hotel and Casino: $7,100 // Sanders spent $7,100 in March.
- Hard Rock Hotel and Casino: $1,600 // Sanders spent $1,600 between July and September.
- Downtown Grand Hotel: $1,400 // Castro spent $600 in September. Harris spent $800 in July.
- Palms Place: $1,400 // Williamson spent $900 on in mid-May. Warren spent $500 on travel in May, June and July. (Warren apologized in August for her staffers staying at the Palms and crossing the Culinary Union’s picket line to do so; Williamson cited “travel and scheduling restrictions” for saying at the hotel, according to CBS News.)
- Silver Sevens Hotel: $700 // Buttigieg spent $700 in late July and early August.
- The Carriage House: $400 // Klobuchar spent $400 in early April.
- Golden Nugget: $300 // Gabbard spent $300 in early April.
- Plaza Hotel and Casino: $200 // New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker spent $200 in early April.
In the north:
- Grand Sierra Resort: $15,800 // Steyer spent $10,100 at the end of September. Harris spent $2,800 in May. Warren spent $1,600 on travel in April, May, July and August. Booker spent $400 in May and September. Sanders spent $300 in June. Biden spent $300 in August. Williamson spent $300 in April.
- Peppermill: $600 // Williamson spent $600 in April, May and July.
- Circus Circus: $400 // Booker spent $400 in March.
Food and catering
Fundraisers, debate watch parties and other campaign events are all fine and well on their own. But there’s one surefire way to get people to show up to your events — and that’s food.
To that end, campaigns have learned on some of the most popular restaurants in Las Vegas to cater or host events around town.
The biggest spend by an individual candidate at an individual location on catering, food and beverage was Biden, who spent $38,600 on catering, food and beverage at NoMad between May and September. Two-thirds of that was dropped on a major fundraiser that Biden held at NoMad in early May.
Other campaign spending on food and beverage was less flashy but no less classically Las Vegas. Both Booker and Williamson leaned on the Culinary Academy of Las Vegas, a training school for hospitality workers, for food, beverage and catering for their campaigns.
Several candidates also held community events specifically focused on reaching out to the Asian American and Pacific Islander community at or catered by Chinese, Filipino and Indian restaurants around town, including Harbor Palace Seafood Restaurant, Hong Kong Garden Seafood, Bropards, Chang’s, and Pure Indian Cuisine.
Here’s a sampling of some of the more interesting food and catering purchases made by campaigns.
- MGM Resorts: Biden spent $25,400 on catering, food and beverage on May 7, the day he held a fundraiser at NoMad. He spent another $13,200 at NoMad on in July, August and September.
- Harbor Palace Seafood Restaurant: Biden spent $2,250 on catering, food and beverage at this seafood and dim sum restaurant in Chinatown on Aug. 7, four days after he attended an AAPI community event there.
- Culinary Academy of Las Vegas/Westside Bistro: Booker spent $1,200 on Feb. 25 and Williamson spent $900 in June and July on food, beverage and catering. The Culinary Academy provides training to hospitality industry workers, and the Westside Bistro is a restaurant on its campus where students can practice.
- Bropards: Williamson spent $500 on June 19 and Buttigieg spent $1,500 in mid-May on food, beverage and catering at this Filipino restaurant, lounge and event space in Chinatown. (Buttigieg attended an Asian American Pacific Islander Democratic Caucus community dinner there on May 11.)
- Chang’s: Yang spent $1,800 on catering and event space at this Chinese restaurant in Spring Valley on April 24.
- Pure Indian Cuisine: Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard spent $1,800 on catering and facility fees on March 22 at this Indian cafe near McCarran International Airport. (She hosted an event with Las Vegas’s Indian community a few days prior.)
- PublicUs: Booker spent $1,700 on catering at this popular Downtown Las Vegas cafe in July and August.
- Hong Kong Garden Seafood: Booker spent $1,400 on May 8, a couple of weeks after Met with members of the AAPI community at a "Community Dinner with Cory” at this Chinatown restaurant.
- Cafe de Manila: Warren spent $1,400 on meals on Sept. 14 at this Filipino restaurant in Spring Valley.
- Doña Maria Tamales: Yang spent $300 on catering and event space on April 23 and Harris spent $1,000 on catering, facilities and meals in June and September at this popular Downtown Las Vegas tamale shop. (Harris’s campaign hosted a debate watch party at the restaurant in late June.)
- TC’s Rib Crib: Yang spent $600 in April, and Williamson spent $300 in June on catering, food and beverage at this barbecue joint. (The restaurant has since closed after the sudden death of its owner.)
- Ferraro’s Restaurant: Sanders spent $700 on catering from this upscale Italian restaurant in July.
- DW Bistro: Harris spent $700 on meals on April 4 at this Southwest Las Vegas restaurant that serves a mix of New Mexican and Jamaican cuisines.
- Shiraz: Montana Gov. Steve Bullock spent $600 on meals on Aug. 5 at this popular restaurant serving Indian and Mediterranean food.
- 911 Taco Bar and Catering: Harris spent $600 on catering on July 26 from this mobile taco cart company.
- Lotus of Siam: Klobuchar spent $500 on catering on May 22 at this favorite local Thai restaurant.
- Triple George Grill: Sanders spent $500 on catering in July and September from this Downtown Las Vegas restaurant.
- Tacos and Beer: Buttigieg spent $300 on catering on Aug. 3 and Warren spent $200 on meals on Aug. 27 at this speciality taco and craft beer shop near UNLV.
Event spaces, permits and security
As they travel through town, candidates often host events at local schools, community centers and parks. But doing so doesn’t come free — or cheap. Sanders, for instance, paid the Clark County Parks and Recreation Department nearly $10,000 on event, sound and staging costs in September, when he hosted a rally at the Cambridge Recreation Center.
Three candidates — Sanders, Harris and Warren — have also paid the Clark County School District thousands of dollars to hold town halls and rallies at elementary, middle and high schools across Southern Nevada. Two candidates, Warren and Buttigieg, paid the Washoe County School District to host events at high schools up north as well.
Other times, candidates have paid to host events at private facilities, such as at the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada or First Friday in Las Vegas’s Arts District.
Here’s a look at where some of those events have been and how much it cost the candidates.
- Clark County Parks and Recreation: $9,500 // Sanders spent $9,500 on event, sound and staging in September. He hosted a climate change and “college for all” rally in Sept. 14 at the Cambridge Recreation Center.
- Clark County School District: $8,700 // Sanders spent $1,000 on event, sound and staging in May and September. Harris spent $3,700 on catering, event and facilities in March and August. Warren spent $4,000 on facilities and rentals on in April through September. Sanders hosted a town hall at Roy W. Martin Middle School on May 30; Harris hosted town halls at Canyon Springs High School on March 1 and Nate Mack Elementary School on Aug. 3; and Warren hosted rallies at Bonanza High School on April 27 and Green Valley High School on Aug. 2.
- City of Las Vegas: $7,700 // Warren spent $2,700 on facilities and rentals on June 27. Harris spent $4,700 on event facilities and security in June and September. Booker spent $300 on venue rental on April 29. Warren hosted a community conversation at the East Las Vegas Community Center on July 2, Harris hosted a rally at Doolittle Community Center on June 15 and at the East Las Vegas Community Center on Oct. 2; and Booker hosted an event at Mirabelli Community Center on April 20.
- UNR: $7,200 // Sanders spent $2,400 on event, sound and staging in mid-September, while Harris spent $4,800 on event facilities and parking in late September. Sanders and Harris hosted events on the campus on Sept. 13 and Oct. 3, respectively.
- City of Henderson: $4,300 // Sanders spent $4,300 on event permits, sound and staging in March. The Vermont senator’s first rally in Nevada of his 2020 campaign was in Henderson’s Morrell Park.
- Reno Police Department: Sanders spent $2,400 on event security in early June, after hosting a rally in Reno City Plaza on May 29.
- Washoe County School District: Buttigieg spent $500 on a site rental in September, and Warren spent $800 on facilities and rental expenses in early April. Buttigieg hosted a rally at Sparks High School on Sept. 28, while Warren hosted a rally at Wooster High School on April 6.
- Carson City Parks and Recreation: $1,000 // Sanders spent $1,000 for event planning fees on Sept. 13, the day he hosted a town hall at the Carson City Community Center Gymnasium.
- North Las Vegas: Sanders spent $400 on event security in July.
Other rental spaces
- Springs Preserve: Yang spent $5,800 on event space in April, and Warren spent $6,100 in February and March. Yang held a rally there in April, while Warren held one in February.
- Victory Missionary Baptist Church: Sanders spent $7,000 on event, sound and staging for a town hall he held there on July 6.
- The Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada: Sanders spent $2,000 on event, sound and staging in August; Biden spent $2,000 on site rentals in June, July and August; and Williamson spent $300 on rental fees in April. Williamson and Sanders hosted events at the Center in April and August, respectively.
- First Friday Foundation Las Vegas: Buttigieg spent $3,500 on event registration on Aug. 1. He spoke at First Friday in the Arts District the following day.
- Blind Center of Nevada: Klobuchar spent $3,000 to rent space in April. She hosted a meet-and-greet with local voters there on April 7.
- Desert Willow Golf Course: Biden spent $2,800 for a rally he held at Sun City MacDonald Ranch on Aug. 3.
- Saint Simeon Orthodox Church: Sanders spent $2,000 on event, sound and staging in September. The Vermont senator was slated to hold a rally there with Assemblyman Alexander Assefa on Oct. 2 but was hospitalized following a heart attack the prior evening.
Another significant expense for campaigns over the last nine months has been access to the Nevada State Democratic Party’s voter file. Four campaigns have paid the party $100,000 for access to the file, according to FEC reports, while others have made smaller payments toward the full cost of the voter file.
Other expenses include contributions to local organizations, such as Hispanics in Politics and Battle Born Progress, to attend or sponsor events and sign language interpretation services.
Here’s a look at some of those miscellaneous expenses.
- Nevada State Democratic Party: Sanders, Biden, Harris and Buttigieg have all paid the party $100,000 each for access to its voter file. Yang has also spent $5,000 and Steyer has spent $75,000 for voter file access, something that the campaigns are allowed to pay in installments. The party has also raised money through event tickets and registration fees: Bullock paid the party a little less than $400 for event meals on Aug. 2; Booker spent $1,500 on event tickets on Sept. 25; Harris spent $3,100 on event tickets on Sept. 23; Buttigieg spent $2,500 on a registration fee on Sept. 25 and $1,500 on a site rental on Sept. 23; and Steyer spent $1,500 on an event sponsorship on Sept. 19.
- Red Rock Democratic Club: Several campaigns paid the club for event tickets: Sanders spent $450, Biden spent $35 and Booker spent $550.
- Women’s Democratic Club of Clark County: Warren spent $2,500 on a contribution on Aug. 12.
Community group spending
- Battle Born Progress: Sanders spent $1,500 on an event registration fee on Sept. 17, while Buttigieg spent $1,500 as an event sponsor on Sept. 23.
- Hispanics in Politics: Booker spent about $900 on event tickets on Aug. 28, while Yang spent $500 on event space on April 30.
- Armed Forces and Military Appreciation Inc.: Several candidates made contributions or purchased event tickets from this group, including $250 each from Biden, Booker and Harris. The group puts on an annual Armed Forces, Military Veterans and First Responders Appreciation Day at Craig Ranch Regional Park.
- American Sign Language Communication: Sanders spent $3,800 on interpretation services from March through September. Warren spent $500 in July and August.