Tim Phillips, president of the conservative Americans for Prosperity, said off-the-shelf activism has shown to be a poor substitute for an on-the-ground effort to enlist believers.
“Everyone’s gotten that phone call from a person who’s just a reading a script for their job. We need people who actually care,” he said.
SCM Associates declined to discuss its work for the Romney campaign. FLS Connect also declined, but issued a statement saying, “2012 was the fourth presidential campaign cycle where FLS played a key role in voter-turnout efforts and their hundreds of employees again provided top-quality service to their clients, including Gov. Romney’s team with whom they’ve worked since 2006.”
Meanwhile, as Mr. Obama employed a state-of-the art technology team in-house, Targeted Victory, a company led by Romney digital chief Zac Moffatt, received $67 million, with only $1 million being described in disclosures as paying for advertising.
But on Election Day, the campaign’s get-out-the-vote technology, Project Orca, failed. Officials have said Orca was a project of Mr. Beeson’s political department, rather than Mr. Moffatt’s digital department, but FEC reports do not appear to contain disbursements to consultants for the project, emblematic of the outsourcing to multiple layers of for-profit contractors that characterized the campaign.
Targeted Victory did not return requests for comment.
VG LLC and SJZ LLC, two companies tied to Spencer J. Zwick, Mr. Romney’s finance chairman and a business partner of Mr. Romney’s son, Tagg, billed a combined $24 million for “finance consulting.” Neither company appears to have ever done work for any federal candidate except Mr. Romney.
The Romney campaign declined to comment.
The Times analysis showed that largesse extended to top staffers on the Romney payroll, who had sizable bonuses written into their contracts. Seventeen Romney staffers made more money than Mr. Obama’s highest-paid staffer, despite not commencing work until months later, with Mr. Beeson making $360,000, Matt Rhoades making $330,000 and Lanhee Chen making $320,000.
Mr. Obama had 1,800 staffers work a combined 17,000 months for $56 million, while Mr. Romney’s 870 staffers worked a combined 6,400 months for $31 million, meaning Mr. Romney spent 45 percent more per staff-hour — money that could have gone toward beefing up his army.
American Rambler Productions LLC, run in part by Romney strategist Stuart Stevens and named after a car produced by the now-defunct American Motors Corp. when Mr. Romney’s father was company president, was paid $173 million, most of which passed through to TV stations. But the Obama ad-buying machine was more efficient, paying a lower price per ad on average, according to Federal Communications Commission records and the Wesleyan Media Project.
The Romney campaign bought ads only days ahead of time, even in the final weeks of the race.
The Obama campaign paid AKPD Message and Media, which was founded by Obama adviser David Axelrod and has employed White House adviser David Plouffe, $1.4 million for media production. AKPD did not respond to an inquiry about whether either man had a current financial stake in the company.
The majority of its media buys were made through longtime Democratic ad-buying firm GMMB, which purchased $314 million in ads, including the commission it takes on the buys.