Coworking For America: Presidential Campaigns Have Spent Over $500K On Flexible Offices This Year Alone
The Democratic presidential candidates have rapidly built up their campaign infrastructure this year as they compete to take on Donald Trump, and many of them have turned to flexible workspace providers like WeWork, Regus and Knotel to scale quickly.
Eleven presidential campaigns have spent over $550K combined to lease space with at least eight separate coworking providers this year, a Bisnow analysis of campaign spending data shows.
The campaign that spent the most on flexible office space was that of former Vice President Joe Biden, followed by Sen. Kamala Harris, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg's campaigns. These five candidates also happen to be leading the race, according to the Real Clear Politics national polling average.
The most common workspace provider for campaigns has been WeWork, the coworking leader that agreed to an $8B takeover from SoftBank this month after its high-profile IPO attempt collapsed. Five campaigns have taken space with WeWork, spending a combined $134K.
Regus and The Yard were each used by three campaigns, while the remaining flexible workspace providers had just one presidential candidate spend money with them. Hover over the bars in the chart below to see the total amount the campaigns spent with each flexible workspace company in 2019:
Flexible workspace concepts have exploded in the three years since the last presidential election, making them a more omnipresent option for political campaigns seeking to quickly ramp up their footprint. Savills Managing Director Ken Biberaj, an office broker who has represented political organizations and who himself has a background in politics, said flexible workspaces are a logical solution for campaigns.
"Any campaign in a major market that's looking for space should automatically be looking at a flexible solution," Biberaj said. "In a campaign you'll need space quick and ready to go with furniture, infrastructure, utilities, and you'll need flexibility to grow and shrink."
The campaigns have spent the majority of their coworking money in large markets such as New York, D.C., Texas and California, rather than the smaller, early primary states such as Iowa and New Hampshire where candidates are traveling most often.
Biberaj, who worked on John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign, said campaigns have different real estate needs in early primary states. He said they are more likely to lease vacant retail storefronts that give them visibility and easy access for volunteers.
"In battleground states like Iowa, you want to be visible to voters so you'll probably open smaller but visible offices to cover ground," Biberaj said. "If it's a headquarters and you need privacy and don't need people coming in, then flexible solutions in major markets make tremendous sense."
The former vice president didn't publicly launch his campaign until April 25, but his campaign had begun taking coworking space nearly a month earlier.
Biden's public campaign expenditures show he spent $1,490 March 26 on a rent payment to WW 1328 Florida Ave. LLC, the entity that operates WeWork's Manhattan Laundry coworking space in D.C.
Over the next two months, he made three more payments to the entity totaling $6,600, $2,700 and $8,112. But Biden, who has led in nationwide election polling for most of the year, appears to have shifted away from WeWork after the spring.
During the last six months, he has made three payments to Convene totaling $73K and six payments to Knotel totaling $147K.
Biden's total spending on flexible workspaces is still significantly less than what he has paid in rent to the owner of Philadelphia's 1500 Market St. building — more than $500K — which serves as his campaign headquarters.
The senator from California briefly polled in second place after the June Democratic debate before falling back to fifth, according to the RCP polling average, but she has maintained the No. 2 spot for the most spent on flexible office space.
Harris made a $20K payment Feb. 15 to a Regus entity based in Texas, campaign data shows. She then made three more payments of $13K, $13K and $19K to Regus over the following three months.
More recently, Harris made payments of $6K and $2K to Lauren's Shared Workspaces, a small business based in Greenville, South Carolina. As of Sept. 21, Harris had spent more time in South Carolina, the third primary state, than Iowa and New Hampshire combined, the Post and Courier reported.
The senator from Vermont has also focused his coworking dollars in the Palmetto State.
From May 9 to Sept. 19, Sanders made eight separate payments of $6,500 to a Greenville, South Carolina-based affiliate of Serendipity Labs, a nationwide coworking provider.
Sanders has raised the most money of any Democratic candidate this presidential cycle with $74.5M, according to Federal Election Commission filings. While his coworking spending appears limited to South Carolina, Sanders' campaign has made rent payments in at least six other states, including Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, Vermont, Massachusetts and Texas.
The senator from Massachusetts, who has surged to second place in the polls behind Biden, has some more catching up to do to reach the former vice president's flexible workspace spending.
Warren made four separate payments to WeWork from January to April totaling $46K, campaign finance data shows. The filing does not reveal which WeWork location the campaign occupied.
While Warren publicly announced her candidacy Feb. 9, her campaign committee made a $7K payment to WeWork three weeks earlier on Jan. 15. It then increased its spend with WeWork the following month, making a $22K payment Feb. 27, before decreasing to $13K and $4K in March and April, respectively.
Her campaign does not appear to have spent money with WeWork or any other coworking providers in the last six months. She has paid rent to individual entities in South Carolina, Iowa and New Hampshire, and has spent more than $150K on rent for her campaign headquarters in Charlestown, Massachusetts, where her 100-plus-person campaign team works out of a 10K SF open-concept office.
WeWork is also the coworking provider of choice for the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, though he appears to be taking less space than some other candidates.
Buttigieg made 11 separate payments between $1K and $4K to WeWork from Feb. 12 to Sept. 4. He also made one $4K payment to Regus. The 37-year-old military veteran has raised the third-most money of any Democratic candidate and is polling fourth, according to the RCP average.
The former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Barack Obama, Castro began paying rent to Regus in March.
Castro, also the former mayor of San Antonio, made six separate payments to a Texas-based Regus entity totaling $20,500 between March and August. He also made two rent payments to WeWork totaling $2,500 in July and September.
The senator from Colorado appears to be occupying WeWork space in D.C.'s Chinatown neighborhood.
Between June and August, Bennet made three rent payments totaling $7,800 to the entity that operates WeWork's 777 Sixth St. NW location, but he appears to have moved around the corner. In August and September, Bennet made three payments totaling over $11K to the entity that operates WeWork's 718 Seventh St. NW location.
Several Democratic candidates who remain in the race, including Andrew Yang, Beto O'Rourke, Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker, Tulsi Gabbard and Tom Steyer, do not appear to have made rent payments to flexible workspace providers. Additionally, President Donald Trump's campaign, and that of the other Republican presidential candidates, do not appear to have rented coworking space.
But at least four candidates who have dropped out did spend money on coworking spaces.
Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts made four rent payments to The Yard totaling $18K and three payments to WeWork totaling $17K between May and August.
Rep. Eric Swalwell of California made two rent payments to The Yard in June and July totaling $6K.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee made seven rent payments to NYC Office Suites totaling $8K between March and September.