West, 43, contributed nearly $12.5 million of his own money while raising a little more than $2 million from outside contributions, according to his final Federal Election Commission report.
In all, the rapper and designer raised $14.5 million to fund his late-in-the-cycle bid, in which he barely qualified for the ballot in a dozen states and earned only about 66,000 votes nationally.
West launched his campaign on July 4 last year, running under the “Birthday Party,” on a platform mixing Christian and fiscal conservatism along with a focus on the arts and on criminal justice reform.
He ended his run four months later with about $1.3 million in the bank. His filings show where all the money went.
West’s campaign spent more than $7.5 million on fees related to “ballot access,” including $1.28 million in payments to Atlas Strategy Group. Gregg Keller, a Republican strategist who reportedly was considered to lead Donald Trump‘s 2016 campaign, owns Atlas and said he was a senior strategist with West’s campaign.
Experts say the focus on the ballot makes sense, given West’s third-party push and lack of political infrastructure only months before the election.
“That’s not unusual for [independent] campaigns, particularly with people who haven’t run for office before,” says Dr. Eric Heberlig, a political science professor at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, who focuses on campaign finance.
Ultimately, however, West only got his name on 12 state ballots as he faced significant challenges where he had to gather tens of thousands of resident signatures.
His belief in himself seems to have outpaced voter enthusiasm. In one case, West paid a $35,000 fee to get his name on the ballot in Oklahoma. Then he received less than 6,000 votes in Oklahoma.
His campaign’s other top spending centered on legal fees, production for online videos he used to promote his campaign and “Kanye 2020” apparel — which in some cases listed buyers as campaign contributors.
(One California man who spent $4,200 on campaign apparel tells PEOPLE he didn’t know that money was going to support West’s bid: “I am a Kanye fan but I didn’t support his campaign,” the buyer says, explaining he merely flipped the clothes he bought online.)
West’s campaign notably did not spend on television, radio or digital advertising, according to the filings. “For most campaigns, their largest set of expenses are advertising,” Heberlig says.
“I didn’t see any Kanye ads, did you?” a former West campaign operative tells PEOPLE, maintaining that “if [West] had pushed and done a $10 million buy digitally, they could’ve actually made a difference in a few states.”
“Typically, [television and digital ads] combine for about 60-70 percent of a campaign’s budget — minimum,” the source says.
West’s filings show he pumped more than $2.7 million of his own money into the campaign even during the final four weeks of the race.
For example, public records show he spent $210,544 on a two-page ad in The New York Times one week ahead of the election and spent $918,130 on campaign apparel on Election Day.
“They overpaid on a lot of stuff,” West’s former operative says.
‘It Wasn’t Your Traditional Campaign’
West announced his White House bid 122 days before Election Day but he went on to hold only one campaign rally, in South Carolina in July, where he spoke emotionally and erratically about social issues and his family’s private moments.
His few interviews about his political ambitions made headlines of their own, as when he told Forbes he wanted to run the White House like the fictional country from Black Panther.
He sometimes went weeks without publicly mentioning the race and his advertising and apparel was unusual by campaign standards. He released a promo showing photos of Kirsten Dunst, Anna Wintour and others — but hadn’t gotten their permission.
His running mate, a 57-year-old Wyoming-based biblical life coach named Michelle Tidball, never made a public statement about the campaign.
West’s music representatives have not engaged with questions about the 21-time Grammy Award winner’s decision to run for president, and operatives involved with his campaign routinely refused to talk on the record or simply did not respond to requests for comment.
A spokeswoman for West did not comment for this story.
“It wasn’t your traditional campaign,” says the political source, who aided West’s efforts last summer.
“He isn’t versed enough politically,” the former operative tells PEOPLE. “He figured that by doing it on his own, he could control his own media. But he has so much other stuff going on in his life that has nothing to do with politics that the distractions are there.”
Indeed, at the same time that West was embarking on his quixotic campaign, his personal life was deteriorating.
His wife filed for divorce earlier this month, after nearly seven years of marriage; and sources previously told PEOPLE their union had been under mounting strain.
“If I had to say the final straw, I believe it was a combination of the Presidential run and his Twitter rants,” a West insider told PEOPLE last month. (Kardashian, 40, had asked the public for “compassion” amid her husband’s concerning behavior last summer, which the family linked to his bipolar disorder.)
This week a source told PEOPLE: “There is no drama between Kim and Kanye. Kim is mostly just disappointed that they couldn’t figure out how to stay married.”
But, the source said, “it takes two people to create a happy marriage. Kim has felt Kanye is not willing to do the hard work and compromise.”
The two are seeking joint custody of their kids and neither is contesting the prenup in place, PEOPLE previously reported.
As for politics, West hasn’t said never again.
After his election loss, he tweeted: “WELP KANYE 2024.”