Posts Tagged ‘Follow the Money’

This story in the Washington Post is unbelievable. If this had happened in the private sector, people would have been fired immediately.

This exchange really captures the severity of it all:

“Isn’t that a terrible way to look after the taxpayers’ money and to make purchases anywhere?” Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.), ranking member on the Senate Banking Committee, said at a hearing on oversight of the bailout.

Warren replied, “Senator, Treasury simply did not do what it said it was doing.”

“In other words, they misled the Congress, did they not?” said a visibly flustered Shelby.

When a Republican senator is openly accusing the Bush Treasury Department of misleading Congress, you know it’s bad.

Peter Orszag, Barack Obama’s nominee to be director of the Office of Management and Budget, has given up his duties blogging for his old job as director of the Congressional Budget Office. The CBO blog will continue under acting director Robert Sunshine.

Here’s hoping that Orszag continues his blogging at the White House.

This seems like a pretty sweet fundraising racket. I’m not sure how ethical it is or not, but it seems to me like it’s the type of situation which could be exploited and lead to a slippery slope of corruption.

Interesting find from the New York Times.

The Washington Post has an interesting investigative story on what I didn’t realize was a cottage industry in Washington: commissioning artists to paint portraits of senior government officials using taxpayer money.

Sam Stein at the Huffington Post:

If Edwards had gotten one of his legendary haircuts every singe week, it would still take him 7.2 years to spend what Palin has spent. Palin has received the equivalent of $2,500 in clothes per day from places such as Saks Fifth Avenue (where RNC expenditures totaled nearly $50,000) and Neiman Marcus (where the governor had a $75,000 spree).

Indeed, the story could not come at a more inopportune time for the McCain campaign. During a week in which the Republican ticket is trying to highlight its connection to the working class — and, by extension, promoting its newest campaign tool, Joe the Plumber — it was revealed that Palin’s fashion budget for several weeks was more than four times the median salary of an American plumber ($37,514). To put it another way: Palin received more valuable clothes in one month than the average American household spends on clothes in 80 years. A Democrat put it in even blunter terms: her clothes were the cost of health care for 15 or so people.

Update: Marc Ambinder:

That’s one good week of television time in Colorado.

Remember how much fun Republicans had tarring and feathering John Edwards with this?

If that was fair game (I thought at the time – and still do – that it was quite silly) then Sarah Palin and the Republican National Committee just handed the Democrats a whole caseload of ammunition.

The Republican National Committee has spent more than $150,000 to clothe and accessorize vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and her family since her surprise pick by John McCain in late August.

According to financial disclosure records, the accessorizing began in early September and included bills from Saks Fifth Avenue in St. Louis and New York for a combined $49,425.74.

The records also document a couple of big-time shopping trips to Neiman Marcus in Minneapolis, including one $75,062.63 spree in early September.

The RNC also spent $4,716.49 on hair and makeup through September after reporting no such costs in August.

The cash expenditures immediately raised questions among campaign finance experts about their legality under the Federal Election Commission’s long-standing advisory opinions on using campaign cash to purchase items for personal use.

Politico asked the McCain campaign for comment, explicitly noting the $150,000 in expenses for department store shopping and makeup consultation that were incurred immediately after Palin’s announcement. Pre-September reports do not include similar costs.

Somehow, I think a six-figure shopping spree for a personal makeover is not what Republican donors had in mind when they wrote out their checks. Expect the Democrats and the late night comedians to pounce on this.

Update: Marc Ambinder quotes Republicans, GOP donors and an RNC staffer who are disgusted with the expenditures, although not surprisingly all of them are on background.

Patrick Ruffini:

First, public finance in the general election is dead, dead, dead. Any nominee from now on can safely opt out because the Internet makes it for the public to massively participate. If we had not had a nominee with such misguided instincts on campaign finance reform, Republicans probably would have figured this out this time. McCain raised $47 million in August, or 71% of Obama’s total, and he raised $10 million in 2 days because of Sarah Palin. Had this trend continued into September, McCain would have raised over $100 million for the month. By the time the McCain campaign figured out it was possible to excite the base, it was too late.

This is true, because Obama has unleashed the full potential of a small Internet-based donor operation that (ironically) was first pioneered by John McCain back in 2000 and later on in a much more dramatic way by Howard Dean in 2004. This essentially narrows the playing field for presidential candidates. You either have to be able to connect with voters in a way that they will give money and time an deffort, come hell or high water (i.e. Dean and Obama), or you have to be ridiculously wealthy enough that you can substantially finance your own campaign (i.e. Mitt Romney and Ross Perot).

And Ruffini smartly asks the next question. How do you spend $150 million?

Second, what does Obama do with the extra money? A three-to-one ad ratio in a given state is worth about a point in the polls. But that’s in states with at least a decent baseline of Republican advertising. What’s it worth in states where McCain can’t advertise at all, like North Dakota or Georgia? 3 or 4 points? Does Obama move into states at the fringes of the target map to 1) heighten the sense of panic in the GOP? and 2) go for 400 EVs? Can he legally bail out the committees to go for 270 in the House and 60 in the Senate?

Either way, this is going to be the political equivalent of Sherman’s March.

Obama’s fundraising numbers for September are out, and they are absolutely jaw-dropping.

Obama’s September fundraising explains why he’s been able to outspend John McCain so widely: He raised over $150 million in September alone, adding 632,000 new donors.

The average donation for the month was less than $100. The average contribution for the campaign is $86, Obama aide Dan Pfeiffer said in an email.

They’ve been raising, presumably at the same torrid pace, for the last 19 days, though the announcement — held nearly as long as possible — may make it a bit more of a challenge to ask for more. Obama’s total is almost twice what McCain is permitted to spend between the convention and election day.

The New York Times has an investigative story on Obama advisor David Axelrod’s consulting work.

Throughout the presidential campaign, Senator Barack Obama’s chief strategist, David Axelrod, has not hesitated to call out his counterparts in opposing campaigns for having private business clients that he says conflict with their roles as political consultants.

During the Democratic primary, he criticized Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton over corporate public relations work by her top adviser, Mark Penn. Last weekend, he accused Senator John McCain’s campaign manager, Rick Davis, of selling access to public officials on behalf of his lobbying clients. In response, Mr. Davis asserted that Mr. Axelrod does the same thing.

Mr. Axelrod is certainly familiar with the ways that corporations seek to influence government and public policy. A look at his consulting business shows that in addition to a successful career working for more than 150 political campaigns, he has also provided his communications skills to a roster of corporations and nonprofit groups. Like his counterpart at the McCain campaign, he has often the goal of swaying government decision makers in favor of his clients.

Mr. Axelrod’s services, though, have been confined to public relations and advertising — he has never been a registered lobbyist. And unlike Mr. Penn and Mr. Davis, whose firms represented controversial clients in the midst of the presidential campaign, no comparable potential conflicts have emerged between Mr. Axelrod’s consulting business and his current work for Mr. Obama. Most of Mr. Axelrod’s clients predate the presidential campaign.

Even so, in a political climate hypersensitized to questions about the influence of “special interests,” Mr. Axelrod’s corporate work has remained largely obscured — his clients’ names were removed from his firm’s Web site several years ago, part of a series of revisions that minimized details of that side of his business.

The identities of some of his past clients appeared in the press over the last year, including AT&T, Cablevision and the University of Chicago Medical Center. A fuller picture emerges from a review of public records, including an archived version of his Web site that contains an early list of companies and organizations his firm has worked with.

Welcome to the wonderful and lucrative world of political consulting. Although there’s no allegation of quid pro quo or conflict of interest in Axelrod’s case, it’s easy to understand why and how so many political consultants from both parties get tempted to take on contracts that could come back to haunt them or their candidates later.