Democrats dominate political spending on Twitter

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Senator Kamala Harris (Michael Tullberg/Getty Images)

Politicians don’t usually spend campaign cash to promote their tweets. But when they do, they might be a Democratic Presidential candidate.

The Center for Responsive Politics’ analysis of political spending data obtained from Twitter found that Beto O’Rourke, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) were three of the top four political spenders on Twitter from when the social media platform began making the data public in June 2018 through the first week of January 2019.

NextGen America also makes the cut. The group is run by billionaire liberal megadonor Tom Steyer, who recently announced he would not run for office.


Twitter’s political spending was largely dominated by Democratic candidates and other spenders on the left. Altogether, Democrats and liberal groups spent over $2.5 million on Twitter political advertising while Republican candidates and conservative groups spent just over half a million.


Equipped with more money than anyone else, it’s not surprising O’Rourke was the top spender overall. But even with all that cash on hand, O’Rourke used Twitter to raise even more money for his record-breaking Senate campaign in Texas. O’Rourke splurged on a handful of ads, spending at least $57,100 and generating 4.1 million impressions on a promoted tweet urging supporters to chip in after news of new spending from a pro-Ted Cruz super PAC.

While O’Rourke spent most of his Twitter cash in October and November with a focus on his race, Harris did the opposite, instead targeting her promoted tweets almost entirely on petitions to oppose Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation and to protect special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation after the firing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Gillibrand similarly promoted tweets regarding various issues, spending at least $35,400 on a tweet urging Twitter users to sign a petition opposing Kavanaugh and generating 2.9 million impressions.

Pages like “Millionaire Claire,” bankrolled by Senate Leadership Fund (SLF), took on a life of their own with $69,300 in spending on promoted tweets. Using its eponymous Twitter page, SLF spent another $54,200 promoting tweets attacking Democratic Senate candidates Claire McCaskill and Jacky Rosen.

Notably absent from the list of political accounts is Donald Trump, whose @realDonaldTrump handle did not promote any tweets. Facebook and Google, platforms on which Trump has not yet organically accrued the same devout following, are a different story. Trump has spent more than $8 million on Facebook since the website started tracking political tweets in May and another $1.8 million on Google.

This isn’t all that unusual. With a significantly larger user base, Google and Facebook always rake in more from political advertisers.

Super PACs and “dark money” seemed to favor Facebook for political advertising, with many setting up separate pages dedicated to attacking candidates. Though “Millionaire Claire” is one rare example on Twitter, the phenomenon became very common on Facebook, where SLF rolled out “The Joe You Don’t Know,” “Mexico Joe” and the less-snappy “Heidi Heitkamp’s Game of Hypocrisy.”

The bulk of reported spending on Twitter is made up by disclosing groups and candidates, totaling more than $2.5 million. Non-disclosing groups make up just $56,655 of spending by political and partially disclosing groups make up $13,747.




The liberal Majority Forward, this cycle’s leading dark money spender, shelled out $864,023 on Facebook and $430,800 on Google compared to $13,700 on Twitter. Conservative dark money group One Nation spent more than $1.7 million on Google advertising and $823,139 on Facebook but just $12,700 on Twitter.

While Facebook’s archive shows more than 100,000 pages taking out political ads, Twitter has identified just 92 pages as having run “political” promoted tweets.

Twitter defines “political campaigning” as ads purchased by political committees and candidates registered with the FEC or ads using express advocacy language about a clearly identified candidate for federal office.

Though it provides useful data about federal candidates, Twitter’s list is not exhaustive or comprehensive just yet.

Steyer’s Need to Impeach, for example, does not show up on Twitter’s list, despite being registered with the FEC and promoting political tweets through election season. Those tweets were not labeled as “political” and therefore do not display the usual data such as money spent and impressions earned.

“This account and the promoted tweets it has run should have been certified and labeled accordingly … we’re currently rectifying this,” said Twitter spokesperson Nicholas Pacilio.

Because Need to Impeach is not currently included on Twitter’s list of certified political ad sponsors, information about its spending on that platform remains unknown. Need to Impeach spent more than $2.8 million on Facebook and nearly $1.5 million on Google through the end of 2018.

The amount of digital ad spending reported to the FEC has increased in recent years. A conservative calculation of spending on digital services reported to the FEC by House candidates exceeded $33.3 million in the 2018 election cycle, more than twice the $16.2 million spent in the 2016 election cycle. The increase in digital spending continues a growing trend, rising from $12.7 million in 2014 and just $5.9 million in 2012. Altogether, candidates running for federal office spent more than $71.9 million during the 2018 election cycle, with $29.8 million by Senate candidates and $8.8 million by presidential candidates.

Democrats have spent substantially more than Republicans on digital services in the 2018 election cycle, as reported to FEC. However, Republicans outspent Democrats on digital in the three prior election cycles.

Explore the data:

HandleAbout Twitter Spending Disclosure                
Beto O’[email protected]925900Y
Kamala [email protected]U.S. Senator for California. Former CA Attorney General. Fighting for justice and giving voice to the voiceless. Wife, Momala, Sister, Auntie. Aspiring chef.614600Y
NextGen [email protected]xtGenAmericaFounded by @TomSteyer, we fight for progress on climate, equity, and justice. And in 2018, we are running the largest #youthvote program in American history.179300Y
Kirsten [email protected]Theo and Henry’s mom, U.S. Senator from New York, author of NYT bestseller Off the Sidelines. Pitcher, but sometimes left fielder. Democrat.126900Y
Senate [email protected]Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Work to elect Senate Dems for a fair economy, safe country & opportunity for all. Last line of defense against Trump.89900Y
Jacky [email protected]Campaign account for U.S. Senator-elect Jacky Rosen. Ready to fight for Nevada’s hardworking families.73600Y
Millionaire [email protected]69300P
Adam [email protected]Father, husband, former federal prosecutor, triathlete and sometimes comic. Congressman from CA.68900Y
The official account of Senate Leadership Fund.Senate Leadership [email protected]_Fund54200P
[email protected]The NRCC is devoted to increasing the Republican conference in the U.S. House of Representatives.40000Y
Jeff [email protected]Senator Jeff Merkley puts Oregon’s priorities first. Official Campaign account for Jeff Merkley for Oregon.17800Y
Suggested [email protected]This handle is owned and operated by Storylift and is used to promote political advertisements.17500Y
The [email protected]This is the official Twitter account of the Democratic Party. Follow us to get the latest info on Democratic news and issues.15600Y
J.D. [email protected]Iowa born and raised. Former ⚾ player & 2016 Democratic candidate for Congress against Steve King in #IA04. Still Standing Tall for All!14100Y
Danny O’[email protected]Proud Franklin County Recorder.13700Y
[email protected]Our primary mission is to encourage full participation by voters in our election process.13700N
House Majority [email protected]Working to defend and expand the Democratic House majority by investing in races from coast to coast.13000Y
Bob [email protected]Husband | Father | Marine | Business Leader | Proud New Jerseyan running for US Senate b/c NJ deserves a Senator we can be proud of🇺🇸Tweets from Bob signed-BH12900Y
One [email protected]E pluribus unum. Out of many, one.12700N
The Senate [email protected]National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) • Dedicated to building a conservative Senate and keeping the #MajorityWorking. Follow us on Snapchat: ‘thenrsc’11200Y
[email protected]A non-profit org. that engages Republican policymakers & the public about commonsense, conservative solutions to address our nation’s need for reliable energy10700N
Planned Parenthood [email protected]We’re the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, a 501(c)(4) organization. We work to advance access to sexual health care and defend reproductive rights.10000P
[email protected]Restoration PAC was formed because we believe America has steered off-course and needs a conservative agenda to restore her greatness.9900Y
Seventh [email protected]A clean world starts with a clean home. We’ve been helping safely clean yours for over 28 years. #comeclean8400
Randy [email protected]Father, Army veteran, Union Ironworker, Cancer survivor. Former candidate for Congress #WI017700Y
[email protected]_PACWorking to elect gun violence prevention champions6400Y
CFG [email protected]Dedicated to a single mission: electing more pro-growth, fiscal conservatives to the House and Senate!6100Y
End Citizens [email protected]Democratic activists fighting for true campaign finance reform.5300Y
Ted [email protected]Father of two, @heidiscruz’s husband, fighter for liberty. Representing the great state of Texas in the U.S. Senate.4500Y
Andrew [email protected]Veteran Naval Officer, Native Floridian, Owner of neighborhood learning center. Ironman 70.3 triathlete & recovering Dem for Congress from #FL15.4200Y
Susan B. Anthony [email protected]Working to save babies and their moms by passing lifesaving laws and advancing & mobilizing #ProLife women in politics. Follow @MarjorieSBA & @LozierInstitute4200N
Susie [email protected]Candidate for Congress. #NV03. Education Advocate. Community Leader. Board President of Communities In Schools of Nevada. Wife and mother of 2 awesome kids.3800Y
National Kidney [email protected]30 million Americans have Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) and millions more are at risk. Learn more at #kidneydisease3600N
Question [email protected]It’s time for Eastern Washington to question whether Dan Newhouse and Cathy McMorris Rodgers share our priorities and values!3300Y
Joan [email protected]AZ Daughter & business owner. Congress 2020 #AZ05 Honesty. Compassion. Unity. #CountryBeforeParty The People’s Candidate. Democrat fighting for all families.3200Y
[email protected]The Association for Accessible Medicines promotes policies to ensure more generic and biosimilar medicines are more accessible to more people who need them.3000Y
Elizabeth [email protected]United States Senator from Massachusetts.2700Y
Senate Majority [email protected]Solely dedicated to building a Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate2693.9Y
Defending Main [email protected]The Defending Main Street Super PAC is the most effective independent expenditure organization supporting Republicans who win in swing districts nationwide.2400Y
Mike Rogers [email protected]A Conservative Republican, 6th generation East Alabamian & son of a retired textile worker & fireman. He has been married for 30+ years and has three children.2100Y
Battle Born [email protected]BBP, through strategic communications, empowers, engages & mobilizes NV voters to build a state where everyone has a fair opportunity to succeed. Non-partisan.2000P
EMILY’s [email protected]We ignite change by getting pro-choice Democratic women elected to office.1800Y
Dominic [email protected]Somebody who cares about Connecticut1500Y
Missouri Rising [email protected]We’re supporting @HawleyMO as the candidate to defeat Claire McCaskill & give Missouri a conservative voice in the U.S. Senate1500Y
Dan [email protected]Fighting for Michigan.1400Y
John [email protected]The official Twitter account for John Vihstadt, independent Arlington County Board Member1400Y
Marsha [email protected]Wife, mother of two, Marshie to my grand kids. The first female Senator-Elect from the great state of Tennessee. Snap: teammarsha • Insta: team.marsha1400Y
Amy [email protected]U.S. Senator from Minnesota. Follows, Retweets, Replies ≠ endorsement1300Y
National Horizon [email protected]National Horizon fights on the side of less government and more respect for families.1300Y
NCTE Action [email protected]The National Center for Transgender Equality Action Fund is a 501(c)(4) non-profit advocacy organization fighting for #transgender equality.1300N
Jackie [email protected]I proudly represent San Francisco and San Mateo counties. I served 18 years in the CA State Legislature before being sworn into Congress in April 2008.1200Y
Nevada Values [email protected]Nevadans deserve to know the facts about @RobersonForNV. Paid for by Nevada Values PAC not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.1200Y
Congressional Leadership [email protected]The Congressional Leadership Fund is a super PAC focused exclusively on preserving and expanding a Republican Majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.990.8P
Joe [email protected]United States Senator from Indiana, working nonstop to create more opportunities for Hoosier middle- and working-class families.956.2Y
Brian [email protected]#BucksCo born & raised. Former @FBI Supervisory Special Agent, former Special Assistant U.S. Attorney & current candidate for Congress. #GoBirds950Y
Catskills Freedom [email protected]The Catskills Freedom Network is a Political Action Committee formed to support policies and candidates to change what is happening in Washington and NY-19.938.3Y
Menendez for [email protected]Official campaign account of Senator Bob Menendez. Tweets are from #TeamMenendez unless signed with “-Bob”820.3Y
American [email protected]_BridgeHolding Republicans accountable.755.9P
Mimi [email protected]Mom, attorney, professional mediator, judge 28+ years, yoga teacher, humanist.658.7Y
Stand with [email protected]Owned by Americans for Police and Trooper Safety, a Political Action Committee, dedicated to electing law enforcement veterans to Congress.577.2Y
Yes on A: Strengthen the [email protected]Vote YES on Proposition A to protect SF’s waterfront against earthquakes, disasters, & sea level rise. Financial disclosures available: sfethics.org562.5Y
Rep. Pete [email protected]This is the campaign Twitter account for Congressman Pete King (NY-2). Owned by Pete King for Congress.552.7Y
Laura [email protected]Small biz owner/progressive digital consultant @Power_Thru, co-chair @HealthCareVoter founder @VoiceHealthCare @VoterRights cancer survivor, was #BlockedByTrump495Y
Tammy [email protected]Campaign account for Senator Tammy Baldwin. Tweets by staff. Tweets from Tammy signed — TB.494.8Y
IXNAY [email protected]Working to get Donald Trump and his allies out of American politics. IG & FB: ixnaypac440.4Y
TN Democratic [email protected]The official Twitter feed of the Tennessee Democratic Party.409.8Y
@BevGoldsteinDr. Beverly Goldstein. MAGA. PhD Audiologist. Navy Wife-30 yrs. Mom. Dtr of Holocaust Survivors vs Marcia Fudge: Supporter of Illiteracy & Poverty #OurPeople1st395.7Y
Janet [email protected]Founder @TheJordanWatch. Retired Schoolteacher. Union Leader. Country over Party. People over Politics. Former Congressional Candidate.370.2Y
[email protected]GatorPAC goals are to #DrainTheSwamp and rid government of the career politician gators. Constitution. Liberty. #WontBackDown367.2Y
Danny [email protected]Telling stories as only I know how. #Agvocate & #Advocate for the small business backbone of America, #farmers & #ranchers350Y
Michael [email protected]Independent Candidate for US Congress297.5Y
Dan [email protected]280.9Y
Friends of Tarah [email protected]Stroudsburg mayor, Tarah Probst, was the 2018 Democratic candidate for Pennsylvania Senate District 40 representing Monroe and Northampton counties.275Y
[email protected]Inspiring and empowering you to change the world. Let’s Do This! 👊255.9N
Ducey for [email protected]Governor @DougDucey is securing Arizona’s future for good jobs, great schools, and safer communities #SecureAZ250.5Y
Harry [email protected](R) Candidate for Congress CT-4 Against Himes | Successful Entrepreneur & Investment Manager | Committed to Public Service | Devoted Father & Husband | Blessed249.3Y
Jennifer [email protected]Democratic Candidate for Congress in VA’s 6th Congressional District. Advocate for working families, farmers, and the environment. #MedicareForAll #FightFor15248.6Y
Jon [email protected]Senate campaign of Jon Tester – dirt farmer & Montana Senator from Big Sandy – RTs, Replies & Follows ≠ Endorsement. Voting questions? Call or text 866-439-5008204.5Y
[email protected]The Official Twitter Account of the Tennessee Republican Party. Tennessee’s Majority.202.6Y
Mark [email protected]Father, Husband & member of U.S.Congress. Always people over politics.200.8Y
Justin [email protected]Husband, father, Astros fan, lawyer, adjunct professor at UT Law School, Democratic candidate for Texas Attorney General200Y
Steve [email protected]Father, Husband, Veteran, Doctor, Dog Lover. Running for Congress AZ 9. Working to make a difference everyday. #ferraraforcongress200Y
[email protected]Topplr™ is a self-serve voter targeting software that lets you spark a truly social campaign. Owned by Christen Lucas139.2Y
Blue Wave [email protected]BWCS is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization supporting Democratic candidates. Visit our website for more info. Tweets by @For_Cripes_Sake and @aynrandpaulryan100N
Tom [email protected]Diplomat, father, former Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. Congressman elect in New Jersey’s 7th district.1.5Y
Breton [email protected]0Y
[email protected]_Y_G_VA clean world starts with a clean home. We’ve been helping safely clean yours for over 28 years. #comeclean0N
Steve [email protected]Former CA Insurance Commissioner Candidate for my 2nd term 2018. Entrepreneur. Life Member CFR. Worked at WH in ’01 as Dir of Critical Infrastructure Protection0Y
Missouri Farm [email protected]MOFB, the state’s most effective org working to improve quality of life for farmers, rural MO, all Missourians. RTs, follows, links ≠ endorsements.N/AY
Clarke [email protected]Citizen, servant, husband, father, Arkansan, survivor.Y
[email protected]Schoolhouse Rock meets ActBlue. Progressive educator. Small dollar fundraiser. Use GoodWerk to make the #BlueWave happen.Y
Martha [email protected]Candidate for Texas Senate District 6Y
Mary [email protected]Mama, Educator, Former Candidate for U.S. Congress, SC-3Y


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