Show Me The Money

Free Advice From A Semi-Retired Campaign Strategist.

DEMOCRATS ALWAYS have the crappiest signs. Maybe it's the result of a subconscious aversion to outdoor advertising, but most of the really bad political signs in this town belong to the Demos. It's almost Democratic candidates are ashamed of having their names on the signs; they leave most of the space vacant and use skinny little letters you can barely read. Republicans do this part much better.

But Republicans have their own quirks. This year especially, they seem to be exceeding Democrats on money spent on campaign administration. All three general election Republican campaigns this year -- Council hopefuls Rick Grinnell and Ray Castillo and mayoral candidate Bob Walkup -- didn't face a primary. And all, to a degree, have frittered away lots of their campaign war chests.

Just because you don't have a primary doesn't mean you don't spend money. You lay things in for the general election -- gather data, design materials, make signs and cover the costs of fundraising efforts. But you hoard it up for the last 30 days when it really counts. Money blown in June isn't there in October. This is even more critical in city races with a spending cap.

A mayoral candidate accepting matching funds may spend a total of $154,684. Walkup, who had raised that much by last week, had already gone through $42,000 by September 13. It is difficult to completely break out his expenditures, as some are totaled together, but it appears that about 40 percent of that -- more than $16,000 -- has gone to salaries and consulting fees. Sherry Potter, a former Target exec who is managing the Walkup campaign, has been paid $8,100.

Another $3,000 has been paid to Toni Hellon, a heavyweight local Republican who's currently serving as an aide to Supervisor Mike Boyd and running for state Senate in District 12. Her husband, GOP National Committeeman Mike Hellon, launched a tough attack against Democrat mayoral nominee Molly McKasson on Arizona Illlustrated shortly after McKasson won the September primary, but that was probably just coincidental.

Walkup has used campaign funds to reimburse his company, Winning Pathways, for the services of his secretary for about $3,000. He's spent close to $2,000 on the services of campaign staffer Andy Greenhill.

Walkup has also spent close to $8,000 in "office expenses" on everything from rent and utilities to furniture. About $3,000 of that breaks out as his costs to rent and equip a small office in Southgate Shopping Center purchased with the hope that it would build support on the southside with Hispanic voters.

Walkup has also been reimbursed for personal expenses totaling almost $1,000, ranging from luncheon tickets to downtown parking.

Council candidates Grinnell and Castillo are equally top-heavy. They've turned to campaign consultant Pam Ronstadt, who's doing business under the banner of Pillar Consultants. Two years ago, Pam Ronstadt was the campaign manager for her husband, Councilman Fred Ronstadt, when he pulled a major upset in the Ward 6 race, so both Grinnell and Castillo are hoping lightning will strike again.

Grinnell, who is facing Democrat Carol West in the Ward 2 race, had raised about $41,000 by the end of September and spent more than $20,731. A large portion went to Pam Ronstadt, who earned $6,385 in consulting fees, plus about $1,000 in expenses, including auto charges and her cellular phone.

Grinnell is topping Walkup in the payback column, pushing $1,800 for campaign expenses that include his car, cell phone and, at one point, a $61 dry-cleaning tab. On later reports he's bunching expenses, so it isn't clear if the dry-cleaning was a one-time charge.

Castillo, who is facing Democrat José Ibarra in Ward 1, also employs the services of Ronstadt and, so far, has paid her $2,700 in consulting fees, plus expenses, out of a total outlay of $10,748.

Castillo has raised $27,485, but unlike his two GOP running mates, he hasn't billed for any personal expenses. Maybe his suits were already clean.

The two Democrats facing Grinnell and Castillo didn't have primary challenges. Ibarra spent accordingly, raising $42,000 and spending less than $2,000 of it. That leaves Ibarra with the driest powder on the block.

Janet Marcus reported spending $49,452 in her unsuccessful mayoral bid, surprising many by being barely able to nose out underfunded late entry Pat Darcy for third place. ProVentures collected more than half of that, more than $27,000, with $17,000-plus going to television time. ProVentures was paid $2,750 in consulting fees, but exact figures aren't available, as some items are run together. The balance of Marcus' funds went for printing, mail, signs, and the now-compulsory web page.

Pat Darcy didn't have a web page. He had only about $10,000 for his whole campaign, with more than $3,000 of that coming from his own pocket. About $4,000 went to buying petition signatures to get on the ballot, leaving him hardly anything to waste. Those who encouraged Darcy's last-minute entry should be asking themselves the question others did at the time: why?

The biggest spender was second-place finisher Betsy Bolding, who spent $109,685, almost exactly 50 percent more than winner Molly McKasson's total of $69,475. Bolding got some heavy support from GOP fat cats, and they should feel right at home with her campaign spending habits. Like Bob Walkup, she paid multiple consultants, shelling out about $8,000 in consulting fees to Jan Lesher and another $17,500 or so to Pete Zimmerman and Associates for her media campaign. She also paid $2,000 to local speech coach Jesse Greenberg. Again, like most campaigns, it's hard to tell exactly how many dollars were actually kept by consultants, who can earn a commission of every media buy or charge production fees. Bolding either never went downtown, rode with someone else, or paid for her own parking. Unlike Walkup, she had few reimbursements.

Bolding paid more than $6,000 in salary to attorney Pam Sutherland as a campaign manager, and $1,000 each to Anne Berger and Jeanne Ware. (Sutherland has since joined the West campaign.) Her total payroll taxes to state and federal agencies used up another $2,000 or so. And she clearly had the most expensive headquarters of any candidate, burning almost $7,000 in rent and utilities. She spent nearly $3,000 with Alexis Thompson and Associates. for petition signatures and even blew $352 on bumper stickers, an item that went out of political campaigns somewhere around the Carter Administration. (By then, many cars quit having bumpers.) Here's a hint: if you have to buy your petition sigs, you probably don't have enough volunteers to need many bumper stickers.

Zimmerman and Associates also did well with media placement and mail preparation for Councilwoman Shirley Scott, who won her Ward 4 Democratic primary. He handled about $22,000 of the $52,000 Scott spent defeating challenger Debbie Johnson, who raised $28,706 -- almost a two-to-one advantage.

The actual ratio was probably higher, because Johnson qualified for matching funds so late that she had trouble spending it (which helps account for a $500 election night party at Macayo's). Unknown newcomer Johnson had two campaign gurus, former state lawmaker John Kromko and local adman Terry Pollock, who rides shotgun next to water activist/car dealer Bob Beaudry. Although Kromko doesn't appear on Johnson's list of expenditures, Pollock was paid $8,116 to design and print campaign literature.

The big winner, McKasson, was the lightest on staff and other administration. Last week, McKasson reached the maximum $154,684 allowed under the city's campaign finance law. During the primary, she only had one paid operative, Lyn Wilson, who collected about $4,000 for the whole campaign. Her headquarters costs were low at slightly over $2,000, and she didn't have to buy any signatures. And it's hard to say anything bad about a campaign that gets outspent three to two and still wins by a four-to-three margin.

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