It began in early November with a story about how Hillary Clinton’s campaign was “powered by pizza,” along with other high-carb foods such as donuts and bagels. In the wake of that report, the national media became obsessed with what the candidates are eating. The fascination eventually resulted in a complete disclosure of all the food expenditures by most of the presidential hopefuls, courtesy of the Federal Election Commission (the exception was Jeb Bush, perhaps the healthiest of them all: he embraced the Paleo diet and shed 40 pounds before starting his presidential bid).
To be fair to Hillary, not all of her campaign tabs have been low-end. She dropped $15,000 at Manhattan’s 40/40 Club, a night spot owned by rapper Jay-Z, and $10,000 at Elevate, an ultra-lounge in LA (no details given as to dishes or beverages of choice). Her list is also liberally sprinkled with hefty payments to carefully selected caterers.
Marco Rubio’s staff appears to be partial to Chik-Fil-A, visiting the Atlanta location more than a dozen times in three months. On the upper end of the scale, he favors the Four Seasons hotel chain (nearly $15K in Beverly Hills, and more than $10K at California’s Westlake Village).
Ben Carson may have eaten his share of fast food, but beyond that his tastes are eclectic: everything from Ben’s Chili Bowl and Johnny’s Halfshell in Washington to BBQ and Irish pubs. Except for the occasional splurge ($1400 at Spark’s Steak House in Manhattan), Carson seems to favor establishments that are rustic and down-home in both theme and cuisine.
As you might expect from his revolutionary persona, Bernie Sanders has probably spent the least on feeding himself and his staff. Even Bernie isn’t immune to the occasional indulgence, having dropped nearly $4K at Caesar’s in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
Not surprisingly, the single largest campaign expenditure on food came from The Donald. At a rally held outside Boston in August, Trump spent $90,000 to feed and water the crowd. Most of the money was originally a donation from Ernie Boch, a supporter and billionaire car dealer. Unfortunately the limit on individual contributions is capped at $2700, so the majority of Boch’s largess had to be refunded. When the feds are watching, even indulgence has its limits.
Mark Spivak is the author of iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History (Lyons Press, 2012) and Moonshine Nation (Lyons Press, 2014); his first novel, Friend of the Devil, is forthcoming from Black Opal Books in Spring 2016. For more information, go to amazon.com