Billionaire presidential hopeful Tom Steyer spent $6.5 million for each minute of speaking time he received during Tuesday's Democratic debate.
Steyer, who has been accused of buying his way onto the debate stage, spent roughly $47.6 million of his own money since entering the crowded primary field in July. He garnered 7 minutes and 13 seconds of speaking time for his first debate. All told, Steyer spent just under $110,000 for each second he controlled the microphone.
Steyer had the lowest total stage time of all 12 debate participants. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.), who has surged in recent polls, had three times as much time fielding questions from CNN and New York Times moderators.
Journalists and Democratic candidates alike say Steyer has used his vast personal wealth to buy his way onto the debate stage.
"The Best Campaign Money Can Buy," an Atlantic headline read.
"Tom Steyer has a surprising platform for a billionaire candidate who made his money gobbling up companies: denouncing 'the corporate takeover of our democracy,'" the L.A. Times wrote.
"I am a bit tired of seeing billionaires trying to buy political power," Vermont senator Bernie Sanders (I.) tweeted in July.
Senator Cory Booker (D., N.J.) complained recently in a fundraising email to supporters that Steyer’s wealth was "hard to compete with," adding that it gave him an "ability to spend millions [that] has helped him gain in the polls like no one else in this race."
Steyer, a longtime Democratic megadonor and impeachment champion, has had to rely on his personal fortune to finance his campaign efforts in early primary states. Federal election records reveal that he has raised slightly more than $2 million from outside donors. That total compares with other lower-tier candidates who have failed to make the debate stage, such as Montana governor Steve Bullock who raised $2.3 million in the third quarter or Colorado senator Michael Bennet, who pulled in $2.1 million in the same period.
Steyer's campaign said earlier this month that it has already met the qualifications for the upcoming debate in November.