One of the big selling points of the Republican Party is its aversion to wasting taxpayer dollars. Elect us, they say, and we’ll be good stewards of your money. We’ll make government leaner and more efficient, delivering the services you need at a lower cost.
Sounds nice enough.
But then you look at how Republicans spent their money in the 2012 campaign, and you realize they can’t possibly know the first thing about efficiency and sensible spending.
Exhibit A: Lenore “You’re Awful” Broughton, the ill-tempered legatee, who poured one million dollars (One… MEEEELLLYUN…dollars) down a rathole called Vermonter(s) First. Which persistently spent her money on stuff that wasn’t working: enough mailers to single-handedly rescue the Postal Service, hyperventilating attacks on Democrats, and a fatally flawed candidate for Treasurer. And, lest we forget, the overpriced consultancy of Tayt Brooks, International Man of Mystery.
The Tayter was fleecing Broughton to the tune of $8,000 a month. (Coincidentally, the same salary that Darcie “Hack” Johnston was (cough) earning from the Randy Brock campaign. More later.) While, according to VTDigger, the actually successful manager of the Shumlin campaign, Alex MacLean, took home about $3,300 in October. That girl needs an agent.
One of the many items in VF’s Parade of Profligacy was polling services from an out-of-state firm. Now, maybe the polling was complete crap (like the one-nighter robo-poll that Randy Brock touted as evidence he was gaining ground on Shumlin), but if the polling was at all accurate, Brooks had to have some notion that his strategy was failing. And yet he just kept on doing the same old stuff. And Broughton kept on cutting checks whenever he asked. And, according to Hack, she plans to continue with Vermonter First. Because, y’know, she has to be pleased as punch with her ROI so far.
Her grandfather, ace business executive Sewell Avery, was a right old bastard. But at least he knew what to do with a dollar. Apparently, Broughton lost the genetic lottery: she inherited the temper but not the money smarts. Avery must be rolling in his grave.
After the jump: Randy Brock, mad spendthrift; plus Doug Hoffer, King of ROI.
Exhibit B: Randy Brock. His one big credential was his money smarts: former top executive at Fidelity Investments, turned in a creditable performance as State Auditor. Elect him, and he’ll don the green eyeshade and make sure every one of your tax dollars is spent wisely.
Now look at his campaign, and tell me that it didn’t completely undermine that hard-won image. He spent big bucks on out-of-state consultants who gave him cookie-cutter strategies that don’t work in Vermont. He paid an out-of-state firm to create a slick-looking but generic campaign website. He spent even more on formulaic TV ads from out-of-state producers: Ominous music, Shumlin in bad lighting, false charges… then happy music, everyday folks, and your hero Randy Brock. I’m sure those ads are slapped together from a template: “Insert Candidate’s Name Here.”
And let us not forget the Hack. I went back through all of Brock’s campaign finance reports and added up all the expenses paid to “Johnston Consulting.” On the July 15 report, which includes all fundraising and expenditures for the previous year, all payments to Johnston are listed as “Consulting and Fundraising.” That would appear to include reimbursements (a few hundred here, a few hundred there, odd amounts) plus salary (big numbers, even amounts), which is a pretty sloppy way for an ex-auditor to do his accounts, but never mind.
Between December 2011 and July 15 2012, the Brock campaign paid Johnston Consulting a total of $55,032.26. Of that total, there were five checks for $8,000 each, which was obviously salary. Small checks (less than $500 each) accounted for about $7400; those appear to have been expense reimbursements. The remainder, $8,479, was in amounts ranging from $850 to $2925. Those could have been salary payments, or reimbursements for major expenses, it’s not clear which.
But let’s be as charitable to the Hack as we can possibly be, and say that she “earned” $40,000 in salary from December through mid-July. From mid-July through mid-November, salary and reimbursements are separately categorized. During that period, Johnston was reimbursed a total of $5,222.91, and she was paid $40,979.49 for consulting services.
And now, let’s add it up. If you count only the $8,000 checks from the July 15 report as salary, and generously assume the rest of the money was for reimbursement of expenses, then Darcie Johnston took home $80,979.49 in salary. Other remuneration (probably campaign-related expenses) added up to $20,255.17.
For a grand total of $100,234.66. Nice work if you can get it.
Overall, the Brock campaign spent more than $800,000, including $300,000 of his own personal money. What did he get? A whopping 38% of the vote.
Asked if in hindsight he’d have changed his spending strategies, Brock said: “No. Well, with additional funding, I would have spent more.”
Translation: “I burned all my money. If I’d had more, I would have made a bigger fire.” What was it Einstein said about insanity?
I think Deane Davis is rolling in his grave, just like Sewell Avery.
Exhibit C: Doug Hoffer, the King of ROI. Spent $53,842.95, got 140,805 votes. Cost: 39 cents per vote.
Compare that to Randy “I would have spent more” Brock, who laid out a whopping $7.27 per vote. I know, I know, running for Governor and for Auditor aren’t necessarily comparable. But Hoffer was significantly outspent by Vince Illuzzi, while Brock’s campaign spent far more than Governor Shumlin’s. The playing fields were much more comparable than in a typical campaign season.
But the point is: Doug Hoffer got his money’s worth, more so than any other candidate in 2012. He spent frugally and won. Y’know, that uncharismatic socialist mumbler might just make a really fine Auditor.
This careless (and pointless) overspending by Republicans — and their insistence that all they have to do is spend more — belies their traditional standing as the party of frugality, the party you can trust to act like adults and hold down the cost of government.
And it aligns nicely with the Republicans’ national record in recent years: the party that cares deeply about the deficit whenever a Democrat is in the White House. Otherwise, whoopee, tax cuts and reckless spending for all!
Between Reagan and Bush II, the deficit consistently grew faster during Republican administrations than Democratic ones. That string was broken with Obama; the deficits have been larger during his first term. But that’s almost entirely due to the legacy of Bush II: the tax cuts, the wars, and the huge costs of the Bush recession. Obama’s stimulus is responsible for only a fraction of the deficit. Also, by all independent accounts, Mitt Romney’s tax and spending plans would have ballooned the deficit even more.
It’s a shame, really. Our system works better with two credible parties. The Republicans have been squandering their credibility for years, thanks to their spendthrift ways and their preoccupation with social issues. It’s clear from the massive and failed investments of the Brock campaign and Vermonter First, not to mention the hundreds of millions sunk down the national Super PAC ratholes, that Republicans aren’t capable of carefully handling their own finances, let alone the state’s or the country’s.