Where’s the beef?

During a political campaign of any sort, the candidate and his or her handlers will spin any information they can control in order to make himself or herself look completely golden. Massaging the image is the name of the game, so getting a peek behind the curtain can be a real eye-opener if you know where to look.

The other day I had forwarded to me an interesting e-mail from a member of a particular Central Committee which National Committeewoman candidate (and former MDGOP Chair) Audrey Scott had visited – it was not ours, since as of this writing Mrs. Scott has not visited Wicomico County as part of her bid. (Rumor has it she will come to our quad-county meeting later this week.) Aside from thanking them for their consideration and asking for their support, one of the key quotes from the note was this evidence of her financial savvy:

As State Party Chair, I retired a $250,000 debt in the first 5 months of my term and raised over $1.5M, in addition to obtaining another $1M from the RNC for the Victory Campaign.

To me, that seemed quite odd.

Now I recalled that our party’s long-standing line of credit, made necessary by debt accrued during the 2006 Bob Ehrlich re-election bid, was erased during Audrey’s tenure but I certainly didn’t remember it ever being $250,000. There was also a matter of settling up an issue related to Michael Steele’s campaign with the state Board of Elections that cost us a sum of money but I didn’t believe the two items combined were a quarter-million dollars, either. That seemed a little bit fishy.

So I did a little bit of digging. At each convention we receive a thumbnail fiscal statement as to how the party is doing financially and since I am a pack rat at heart I’ve kept most of my convention materials over the 5-plus years I’ve served on our Central Committee. These figures paint a somewhat different story.

Audrey took the reins of the party at the Fall 2009 convention, held two months after former Chair Jim Pelura resigned – or was forced out by a lack of confidence from the Executive Committee, take your pick. Regardless, as of September 30, 2009 the figures I have show the party had cash assets of $8,027 and a line of credit totaling $12,452. This was based on revenue during the first nine months of 2009 of just over $230,000 versus a budgeted amount of over $277,000. In other words, our fundraising wasn’t up to snuff. One can debate the reasons why, but suffice to say we were hurting.

So I went and found the full-year numbers for 2010, which in essence was the bulk of Audrey’s year atop the party. At the end of 2010 the party had cash assets of $19,523. That’s a nice amount to have, and I would have been disappointed to see us sitting on a pile of money after a state election. Moreover, the line of credit was no more – so far so good.

But here is the kicker. Total revenue for 2010 amounted to an interesting total of $482,482, against a budgeted amount of $405,913. Yes, that’s about $76,500 in excess of expectations. But that same report has a number credited as “Victory 2010 Revenue.” And if you’ve been following along, you may have already figured out something isn’t quite right here.

The total “Victory 2010 Revenue”? $347,265.

Is that a significant amount? Yes, it is. But is it obtaining $1 million? Nope. It seems to me that if $1.5 million were raised it would have been reflected in this report. Yet revenue was not even 1/3 of that. I remember the line of check writers at the fall 2009 convention but I didn’t think they walked up to the dais with $1 million. (In reality, it was about $4,000.)

Independently, a friend of mine waded through FEC reports and found some more interesting items:

I looked at both the RNC reports and the MDGOP reports to make sure everything checked out…the total cash that went from the RNC to MDGOP was $246,900.

In addition, there was $45,779.82 in salaries paid directly by the RNC between January and June (2010), and $63,525 in in-kind equipment (computers, voip phones, routers, printers, etc). The grand total, including inkinds, was $356,204.82. $1 million it ain’t. Not sure where Audrey dreamed up that number.

I’m not either, but I have to question why she would exaggerate the figure so much when it could easily be proven otherwise. Either that or we have a much bigger “oops” than a National Committeewoman candidate playing fast and loose with the facts because the results I cited have supposedly been checked out by an auditor.

From the beginning I have said if Audrey Scott and Louis Pope want to take credit for raising all this money for the Victory Centers in 2010, they have to also take the blame for poor fundraising before and since.

And then I received a note from Jim Shalleck, who was going to be tapped to run for Attorney General in the 2010 election but ended up not doing so. Because of that, we gave a free pass to Doug Gansler.

To understand the situation, it must be noted that a party rule stipulates Executive Committee meetings have to be held with a ten day notice – but the rule can be waived if all 24 local county (and Baltimore City) chairs agree. The story was that one recalcitrant member wouldn’t give in – and this was blamed on Brian Murphy, who was running for Governor at the time against the party’s anointed choice, Bob Ehrlich. (Another version of the tale says Ehrlich had a deal with Gansler to let him coast, in return for what I don’t know.)

Based on that rule, what Shalleck demands makes more sense to an average reader:

No County Chairmen (sic) has ever said they were opposed to a meeting to designate a candidate.  Audrey Scott either needs to say who it was or else take direct, personal responsibility for the failure of the Maryland Republican Party to field an Attorney General candidate in 2010.  If she…will not do this, she should not be National Committeewoman.

This also brings up a point I harped on two years ago – one we need to address before 2014 comes upon us.

One failure our county Central Committee had in 2010 was not having a full ballot. The Wicomico GOP couldn’t find candidates to run for Clerk of the Court, Register of Wills, or two seats on the Orphan’s Court, so Democrats received freebies in those races. Had it not been for Matt Maciarello stepping up after the filing deadline, the State’s Attorney would have been decided only by Democrats as well.

Around the state, we handed Democrats 35 seats in the House of Delegates and 15 Senate seats because no GOP opposition could be found. They were given a head start of nearly half the majority in the House of Delegates and over 60% of the Senate majority. And I understand that the bulk of these were wildly Democratic districts but at least get on the ballot and state the GOP case so people aren’t continually forced to vote against their best interests. It may go over better than you think.

By the way, Nicolee Ambrose has addressed this – back on February 8 she wrote: “To become more ‘Red,’ we cannot cede a single race to Democrats. I will coordinate with our state and local GOP leaders to help recruit candidates to ensure we are competitive in all races – state and local.” I haven’t seen where Audrey has mentioned this, although it’s likely a goal of hers too.

In the end, I suppose it’s fortunate that the universe of voters in this race is relatively small and surely a fairly significant number read this website on at least an occasional basis. I didn’t decide in this race until fairly recently but if I were still undecided – or if I’d come down in Audrey’s court – I would have to seriously rethink my vote in the wake of the blatant exaggeration I’ve documented here. If Audrey Scott is speaking this way about money, what does that say about her word in other aspects of the job?