November 25, 2022

How paper shortages are pinching the wallets of political candidates

  • Political candidates face a costly enemy this election season: paper shortages.
  • Distributors and printers told Insider that the cost of paper has increased by 10-60%.
  • “I’ve never seen anything like it,” a paper distribution executive told Insider.

With less than three weeks to go until November’s midterm elections, political candidates aren’t just working against their opponent: they’re also facing an ugly paper shortage.

The price of paper products has increased by 10 to 60 percent, said representatives of paper distributors and direct mail companies. The price of Bleached Softwood Kraft Pulp Futures Contractswhich is used in the papermaking process, has also increased more than 35% over the past two years, according to

Political candidates use paper for a plethora of marketing materials, including direct mail, posters, lawn signs, flyers and envelopes — and jurisdictions across the country also use paper for ballots.

Mike Herrera, sales manager at J&N Enterprises, a union printing company in Houston, told Insider that many printers are struggling to source different types of paper.

Herrera said he has heard of some printers making paper quality substitutions without informing applicants.

“It’s ridiculous,” he said.

Mike Milligan, CEO and president of Direct Mail Systems, a printing and mailing company used by state-level Republican committees and candidates, also confirmed to Insider that there is a “huge problem with acquisition of paper”.

Milligan said it took a week for the paper to be delivered to his print shop. Now, he says, it can take months to receive a delivery.

Milligan said trying to source paper from September to October this year is particularly hectic due to election season. Additionally, he said the latter time of the year is the perfect time for nonprofits to send out the bulk of their fundraising direct mail.

He noted that the ongoing paper shortages do not affect any party.

“The newspaper doesn’t know or care who the customer is. It doesn’t matter if it’s political. It doesn’t matter if it’s a credit card statement. supply that hurts everyone,” Milligan said.

Rolls of paper in a warehouse

Paper is getting more and more expensive – and some political candidates are not happy,

PhonlamaiPhoto/iStock/Getty Images Plus

What the candidates say

Insider reached out to the campaigns of 13 Republican candidates and 13 Democratic candidates to see how the shortage affected them.

The majority of campaigns either did not respond or declined to comment, but Republican candidates who responded universally blamed President Joe Biden for the paper shortage.

“We’ve heard that many campaigns at all levels and on both sides are struggling to secure materials due to Biden’s supply chain crisis,” said Anna Matthews, campaign manager for the campaign. of Congress from Republican Amanda Adkins in Kansas. “Fortunately, our print team alerted us to the issue in the spring, so we were able to order some products, such as signage, in bulk early in the cycle.”

Nick Begich, Republican candidate for U.S. House in Alaska, told Insider “there has been a price hike for almost everything due to the destructive and inflationary policies of the Biden administration.”

Earlier this month, Biden declared that “fighting global inflation that is affecting countries around the world and working families here at home is my top priority.”

A grassroots Democratic campaign in a southern state, which did not want to be publicly identified for competition purposes, told Insider the shortage forced its campaign to pull some print marketing because of costs.

How are campaigns affected?

Jeff Ellington, president and CEO of Runbeck Election Services, predicted the shortage will force campaigns to “be more targeted” with their ads.

“All of these candidates now have great data analytics teams to figure out which postcode or neighborhood will be the swing boat area, and they’ll just spend more money on that than they historically would have. to blanket the county with campaign ads,” Ellington said.

Dan Hazelwood, founder of Targeted Creative Communications and board member of the American Association of Political Consultants, disagreed.

Instead of shrinking the base they dot with direct mail ads, Hazelwood said campaigns will find workarounds to best suit their marketing needs, regardless of cost.

“For a political candidate to win or lose – which is ultimately what their publicity is about – is a life-changing event,” Hazelwood said. “They’re going to get it and they’re just going to pay more for it and incur higher costs.”

Congressional candidates, especially those in the nation’s most competitive races, have continued to shell out big bucks for direct mail services — especially those with cash to burn through aggressive fundraising efforts and successful. The shortage could particularly hurt local candidates who are operating on a tighter budget.

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto’s campaign, for example, which is running a close race against Republican Adam Laxalt in Nevada, has spent more than $2.4 million on direct mail and printing services this election season, data shows. from Federal Election Commission.

Laxalt’s campaign spent $412,000 on the same services.

Hazelwood said the campaigns most affected by the paper shortage are the “laggards.”

“If you’re Christmas shopping on December 24,” Hazelwood said, “that magic toy might not be on the shelves anymore and he’s probably the one getting pinched there.”

The real reason for the shortage

Milligan told Insider there has been a 40% reduction in paper use over the past 10 years.

In turn, he said many of the larger paper mills have converted to making boxes and containers for the products instead of traditional paper products.

Additionally, Milligan said the COVID-19 pandemic has caused paper companies to cut staff, creating a production backlog.

A paper distribution executive, who wished to remain anonymous citing competitive considerations, confirmed Milligan’s explanation to Insider.

“I’ve been in this business, buying and selling paper for over 30 years,” the executive said. “I have never seen anything like it. This is the first time in my career where there is absolutely a shortage of manufacturing capacity to meet current needs…and no one I know of is planning to make the investments necessary to restart the equipment that has been shut down.