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How to Boil a Bullfrog

In last Friday's Washington Post, Rosalind Helderman penned a fine article profiling Peter James, the Republican candidate fighting a decidedly uphill battle in tomorrow's special election in Maryland's 4th congressional district. James faces activist Donna Edwards (D) in the contest, which is happening because Rep. Al Wynn (D) decided to resign from the House to join a lobbying firm after losing the Democratic primary to Edwards back in February.

The Post article on James makes clear that the Republican has some decidedly unconventional views about the global financial system, and does his best to avoid being beholden to -- or trackable by -- any government entity: "Rather than allow the government to store his personal information in a database controlled by a private company, James forgoes a driver's license. ... He pays no taxes -- because he is not taking in income. He was issued a Social Security number when he was young but never uses it. He has no bank account, no credit card. He and his wife rent their home, rather than take on personal debt through a mortgage."

Does James' distaste for government agencies extend to the Federal Election Commission? It's tough to say. Last Thursday, the day before the Post article appeared, James registered with the FEC as a candidate for the first time despite the fact that he has been running for the seat for several months (he won the GOP primary back in February, meaning he'll be on the ballot again in November regardless of what happens Tuesday).

According to the FEC: "Generally, an individual becomes a candidate for federal office, thus triggering registration and reporting obligations, when his or her campaign exceeds $5,000 in either contributions received or expenditures made. If the campaign has not exceeded the $5,000 threshold, it is not required to file reports."

So how much money has James actually raised so far? He's not saying.

"We've raised a little bit but I think we're being outspent by 200-to-1," James told Capitol Briefing, adding that each of his contributions so far has been for less than $1,000. Asked the total amount his campaign has raised, James said: "I've got a rough idea, but I don't want to tip my hand."

James did say he expected to file his first fundraising reports sometime after tomorrow's election. Of course, Edwards has been filing regularly in recent weeks, including a "Pre-special election" report on Friday as well as a mandated "48-Hour Notice" yesterday, showing contributions she'd gotten over the weekend.

Through May 28, Edwards had raised $1.2 million this cycle and had $83,000 left in the bank (her fight with Wynn was very expensive). She is heavily favored to beat James tomorrow and again in November unless James can somehow maneuver his small, stealthy campaign with its unknown financial standing into the lead in a heavily Democratic district. Perhaps that's James' plan -- to turn up the heat on Edwards (whom he calls a "socialist") so gradually that she doesn't realize the danger until it's too late.

As James notes on his campaign Web site (he really does; see for yourself): "How do you boil a bull frog? If you throw a bullfrog into boiling water he will hop right out. Place him in cool water and slowly turn up the heat. The water warms and the bullfrog falls asleep and is soon cooked. Hitler like to put it like this, 'You can't get the people to swallow the whole sausage at once. You need to slice it up and feed it to them one slice at a time.'"

By Ben Pershing  |  June 16, 2008; 1:05 PM ET
Categories:  2008 Campaign  
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