A look at Leadership PACs -- The Democrats
It has become de rigueur in recent election cycles for aspiring national politicians to maintain a leadership political action committee. Leadership PACs provide a campaign bank account that a candidate can use to fund his or her relentless travel around the country in the quest to raise even more money. The PACs also allow politicians to donate dollars to (and collect favors from) friendly candidates and help them build the staff infrastructure that can be quickly ported over to a full-fledged presidential bid.
As such, a close review of leadership PACs provides a window into how the politicians eyeing the 2008 presidential race are laying the ground work. Last week, every leadership PAC was required to file reports with the Federal Election Commission.
After many excruciating hours of scanning reports and adding up figures (Remember the Fix was an English major, not a math major), the results are in. We start today with the Democrats and will focus on the Republicans later in the week.
Not surprisingly, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's (N.Y.) HILLPAC is the biggest operation on the Democratic side, employing 26 people (although several of these workers are shared with her official Senate office). Clinton keeps consulting costs to a minimum. In the first three months of 2006, HILLPAC employed just two consultants -- the Hudson Media Group, which received approximately $36,000, and Heather Hurlburt, who took in $15,000. Hudson Media Group is the political arm of the Glover Park Group, a firm where Clinton confidant Howard Wolfson is a partner. Hurlburt, who is based in Michigan, is a former speechwriter in the Clinton administration.
Clinton's main political consultants -- pollster Mark Penn and media consultant Mandy Grunwald -- do not appear on HILLPAC's payroll; since she is running for reelection this fall they are paid out of her principal Senate campaign committee -- Friends of Hillary.
Clinton has used HILLPAC to spread money around the country -- $90,000 to Senate candidates, $30,000 to House candidates, $24,000 to gubernatorial candidates, $45,000 to national party committees and $30,000 to state party committee. As you would expect, HILLPAC made donations to candidates and parties in the key early presidential states of Iowa and New Hampshire.
While it's no surprise that Clinton's operation is the largest among 2008 Democrats, the second place finisher is somewhat shocking.
Former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner's Forward Together PAC has already become a major enterprise, employing 23 staffers and a wide variety of consultants by the end of March. The PAC has added a number of senior level operatives, including Scott Darling, who will serve as Forward Together's finance director. Darling worked for Warner's successful 2001 gubernatorial campaign and then went on to serve as finance director for former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards's 2004 presidential bid.
Among Warner's consultants are the direct mail firm MSHC, which received $15,000 in the first three months of 2006, Web site consultant Category 4 Design ($15,000), fundraisers Campaign Finance Consultants ($42,000) and the Katz Watson Group ($20,000), and communications consultant Pringle Communications Group ($12,000). (Andi Pringle, who was involved in Rev. Jesse Jackson's presidential runs as well as that of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, signed with Warner in early 2006.)
Like Clinton, Warner is not currently paying his two lead political consultants -- pollster Geoff Garin or media consultant Jim Margolis -- although both are expected to be involved in the 2008 race.
As a governor, Warner has ground to make up on his competitors in terms of doling out dollars to candidates -- an issue he began to address in the first months of 2006. He gave out a whopping $150,000 to House candidates, $44,000 to Senate candidates, $35,000 to gubernatorial candidates and $25,000 to state parties -- better than $250,000 in contributions in a single period.
While Sen. John Kerry (Mass.) employed a slightly smaller staff of 15, he used his Keeping America's Promise PAC as a fundraising conduit over the past three months, bundling nearly $500,000 to Democratic candidates.
Kerry kept his consulting fees relatively low -- doling out $30,000 to Backus Consulting and nearly $24,000 to Mayfield Strategy Group (for Web site work). Kerry allies are quick to note he also did considerable bundling and fundraising for candidates through his Friends of John Kerry Committee.
Sen. Evan Bayh (Ind.) was the only one of the top-tier Democrats who had the vast majority of his core 2008 staff on his leadership PAC payroll as of the end of March. Bayh had 11 salaried staff at All America PAC, and he paid $4,000 to his pollster Paul Maslin, $8,000 to media consultant Anita Dunn and $30,000 to fundraising consultant Nancy Jacobson. Bayh was less generous than other major Democratic candidates in the period -- giving a little over $5,000 to state parties and candidates and $15,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
On the other end of the spectrum -- in terms of size and scope -- are the leadership PACs run by Sen. Joe Biden (Del.) and retired Gen. Wesley Clark.
Biden's Unite Our States PAC did not have a single, full-time employee during the reporting period. Instead, Biden farmed out the work to consultants. By the end of March, Danielle Borrin had received $6,600 for fundraising consulting, Eric Carbone had received $22,500 for Internet consulting and Helen Milby & Co. took in $30,000, also for fundraising consulting.
Biden, who never had a leadership PAC prior to this cycle, donated $45,000 to fellow Democrats in the period -- $15,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, $27,500 to Senate candidates and $2,500 to House candidates.
Clark, who continues to harbor presidential ambitions, pays three staffers for his WesPAC. Like Biden, most of the PAC's expenditures go to consultants: $10,000 for fundraising aid to the Ashmead Group, $8,000 to consultant Catherine Grunden, $6,300 to Mullen & Company, and $2,500 each to Blackrock Associates and Oeffingers.com. Clark made no donations from WesPAC to candidates in the first quarter.
The most intriguing report was filed by John Edwards's One America Committee. He employed 15 staffers (two of whom have left since the end of March) and a handful of consultants, including Hinton Hill for direct mail ($15,000), Anne H. Lewis for Internet consulting ($8,000) and Jennifer Swanson for fundraising consulting ($9,000). Harrison Hickman, the expected pollster for an Edwards 2008 campaign, is not on payroll. Edwards has yet to hire a media consultant.
Interestingly, Edwards did not make a single donation to a candidate for local, state or federal office in the period. Edwards allies point out that he has raised nearly $6 million for candidates so far in the 2006 cycle, and they said by foregoing fundraising for his own interests, Edwards is making it easier for other Democrats to collect cash.
April 25, 2006; 3:30 PM ET
Categories: Democratic Party , Eye on 2008 , House , Senate
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