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Story highlights

Hillary Clinton's campaign spent nearly 90% of the money it raised over the last three months

Clinton aides attribute high spending rate to investing in the primary early on

By comparison, Bernie Sander's campaign had a 50% burn rate in the same time period

Boston CNN —  

Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign spent 90% of the money it raised over the last three months, campaign aides said Thursday, a staggeringly high figure for a political organization that has prided itself on being thrifty.

Aides announced Wednesday night that Clinton’s campaign raised $28 million from July through September, the most a non-incumbent campaign has raised in the third quarter of a non-election year. But on Thursday morning, a Clinton spokesman tweeted that the campaign currently has $32 million in the bank, meaning it spent nearly 90% of what it brought in.

It is no secret that Clinton is running an expensive primary campaign. She has a sizable operation in all early states – including 78 paid organizers in Iowa and 50 paid staffers in New Hampshire – and travels with a large number of aides.

She also regularly travels on private planes, an expensive practice that her aides say allows her to do more events and fundraisers in a day.

Clinton aides argued Thursday that their high burn rate is a sign they are investing heavily in the primary. “In addition to television ads, we continued to invest heavily in list building and data with a large analytics and data team,” a spokesman said. “We have put a premium on organizing and built a formidable team early.”

Clinton’s campaign has also reserved air time for campaign ads early in the primary process. While the move ensures lower rates than last-minute buys, it also means they are spending on ads now that are not actually on air.

Despite the explanations, the high burn rate has been fodder for Republicans, who gleefully highlighted that aides once bragged about how frugal the campaign would be.

“While Clinton’s poll numbers continue their steady descent and primary opponents like Bernie Sanders gain equal footing with her in the cash race, Clinton’s team is spending money at an astonishing rate,” said Jeff Bechdel, communications director for America Rising, an anti-Clinton super PAC. “What happened to the campaign’s stories about double-sided paper and riding the bus?”

Bechdel was referencing when a Washington Post report highlighted John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chairman, taking a bus from Washington to New York, and that the campaign had boasted in April that all its printers were set to double-sided in order to save paper.

Clinton’s operation is far more expensive than the one being run by Bernie Sanders, her main opponent for the Democratic nomination.

Sanders’ campaign announced Wednesday night that it raised $25 million in the third quarter and ended with $25 million in the bank, giving the campaign a roughly 50% burn rate. The number is far higher than the 20% he spent in the second quarter, when he raised nearly $12 million, and shows that Sanders has started to spend money as his campaign has become more active.

“What it tells us is that Bernie has financial staying power,” said Jeff Weaver, Sanders’ campaign manager. “We have the financial wherewithal that will allow for a major campaign through Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada and beyond in state-by-state, delegate-by-delegate contests for the Democratic Party nomination.”

The campaign now has 49 paid staffers in Iowa, 43 in New Hampshire and 140 paid staffers total, sizable staffing that it didn’t have last quarter.

Sanders’ campaign, according to aides, still does not spend any money on polling, but has started to invest more heavily in data and list building, especially because most of their fundraising comes online.

Sanders does not travel the way Clinton does, however. The candidate regularly travels commercial and only with one or two aides.