Former congressional candidate Kimberly Klacik went from running a small, Baltimore-area nonprofit to becoming a conservative star tapped to speak at the Republican National Convention.
Now, recently amended campaign finance reports show the price of her rocket to fame and fundraising success last summer. The Federal Election Commission reports show Klacik — who lost in November to Democratic U.S. Rep. Kweisi Mfume by 43 percentage points — paid more than $4 million to Republican-oriented digital advertising and media companies to elevate her profile.
That amounted to nearly half of the whopping $8.3 million she raised in the race — a huge haul for a Republican in a Democratic-dominated district. Now, most of the money is gone.
Klacik and campaign treasurer Greg Stewart characterized the consulting fees Wednesday as a necessary expense.
“We were going against a big name,” Stewart said. “There was no other way.”
According to her latest FEC reports, Klacik spent $7.5 million and had $803,567 left in the bank as of the end of the year. About $3.6 million of the $7.5 million went to Olympic Media Group, an Alexandria, Virginia-based digital advertising and marketing firm, according to Stewart and her FEC reports.
“Every impression you make, there is a charge to it,” Stewart said. “We needed to hit millions of people. In order to get maximum distribution, we had to pay max.”
To donors who might ask why such a high percentage of contributions went to consultants, Stewart replied: “It’s a part of the game. If you want a million impressions, this is the cost.” Impressions are a measure of how many people are shown a digital ad.
“Kim is fantastic,” said Ryan Coyne, founder and CEO of Olympic Media Group. “As everyone in our industry knows, that money represents advertising budget spent on her behalf.”
The FEC records show Klacik’s campaign paid another $500,000 to Arsenal Media Group. A spokesman for that company said it used most of the money to place 15 digital, 30-second ads on various streaming sites. Arsenal produced a signature ad for Klacik, a video in which she walks down empty Baltimore streets, passes vacant homes and urges voters to give Republicans a chance.
Klacik attributed the steep prices not to the consultants, but to the outlets needed to convey her message and make her better known.
“That is how much it costs to push things out on platforms like Facebook and YouTube,” she told The Baltimore Sun Wednesday in a text.
Klacik was quoted Tuesday in a Washington Post article saying she was stunned when she learned the details of the contract with Olympic Media in the second half of last year. She told The Sun Wednesday that Olympic and Arsenal “did a great job.”
She tweeted later Wednesday: “We unfortunately live in a time where Big Tech will make you or break you.”
Klacik captured then-President Donald Trump’s attention in 2019 with videos of litter in Baltimore and scored another viral success with her 2020 ad showing scenes of empty Baltimore row houses. An ardent Trump backer, she appeared on television shows such as “The View,” and has started a political action committee.
Klacik’s original FEC reports for 2020 did not reflect how much her campaign paid Olympic Media. The campaign has been amending reports to document additional fees, and said it is still working to complete that task.
For example, a report covering from Oct. 15 to Nov. 23 showed a payment of $38,054 to Olympic. An amended filing dated Feb. 1 showed more than $1 million going to the firm.
Stewart said the amendment was needed because WinRed, a GOP fundraising platform that acts as a payment processor, was shown incorrectly as the recipient of what were instead payments to Olympic.
Klacik, who lives in Middle River, runs a nonprofit organization that helps disadvantaged women.
Most of her political contributions came from outside Maryland.
She raised more in the two-year congressional campaign cycle than all but about a dozen current U.S. House members, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, a watchdog group.