I wasn’t surprised to see a splashy press release last night from the Larry Hogan campaign talking about their fundraising prowess. At this point it appears he has the most money of any Republican candidate, with $389,206.92 cash on hand and $275,000 in matching funds on the way. In fact, the release states that:
The grassroots gubernatorial campaign of Anne Arundel business executive Larry Hogan continued to surge according to his latest campaign finance report. For the year, Hogan has collected $1.1 million and ends the filing period with $390,000 in cash on hand. Because Hogan declared his candidacy in late January, his campaign’s fundraising figures cover just the past six weeks. The figures reported by the other candidates for the state’s highest office began on January 9, a five and half month period.
Hogan said, “Our grassroots campaign to change Maryland continues to gain traction and unite voters who are fed up with one-party rule, runaway spending, massive tax hikes and incompetent leadership.
“While career politicians focus on winning over Annapolis elites, Boyd and I have been travelling throughout Maryland to win the support of each and every voter who is tired of politics as usual. We are humbled by the outpouring of support from average Marylanders; clearly our message of change is resonating, our election strategy is sound, and we’ll have the resources to win the GOP primary and go the distance in the general election.
The question I have with this statement is just how “grassroots” is a campaign where roughly half of the funding comes from one Larry Hogan?
According to the preliminary report I found last night on the BOE website, Hogan has loaned his campaign $500,000 – $50,000 increments apiece on February 3 and February 12, $150,000 on May 6, and $250,000 on May 19, the day before reports were due. If you consider all the in-kind contributions from Hogan and donations from Hogan-related LLC entities, the total from Larry’s pocket creeps closer to $600,000.
In essence, the difference between the other campaigns and Larry’s is that he has the bankroll to fall back upon while the others don’t. Unfortunately, as we found out with Eric Wargotz in 2010 and E.J. Pipkin in 2004, spending your way to the nomination isn’t a pathway to overall success – obviously that’s why Hogan opted for the public financing route. But his won’t be the only one to qualify for public financing, as one other campaign should reach the threshold in early June.
So we have something of an irony here – Larry Hogan is spending his own dollars to leverage a fund which was supposed to make politics accessible for a concerned middle-class citizen by leveling the playing field between them and the moneyed interests. By spending $500,000 of his own money he’s getting others to fork over $250,000 to get $2.6 million. If this doesn’t make a mockery of the idea, I don’t know what does. Maybe he should have ran for Comptroller instead, because with that magic we could eliminate all the new taxes and some old ones, too.
We’ll be hearing the name Larry Hogan a lot over the next four weeks. Now if we could only get a better idea of why we should vote for him – having a Washington Post endorsement which talks about a “conciliatory tone and reluctance to declare war on the Democratic establishment” doesn’t exactly scream bold colors over pale pastels. Even the Post concedes that “(g)iven the time (Hogan)’s had to plan his run, his campaign is glaringly short on policy specifics, and his views on education, health care and the environment are gauzy at best.” Welcome to my complaint – I like the message of changing Maryland, but cautiously recall the last time someone ran on a “hope and change” platform. Too many people bought the pig in a poke and regretted it later.
Perhaps Hogan can change my mind in Saturday’s debate, and there’s no question he’s still preferable to any of the Democrats out there because the state can’t afford yet another lost four to eight years trying to perfect the unperfectable socialist paradise. But there are a lot of questions about both his platform and how his campaign has evolved, and it’s preferable that he answer the questions rather than have them be October surprises.