By Dwight Morris
With a little more than six months of campaigning to go, freshman Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun (D-Ill.) should be sitting on a huge war chest as she prepares to defend her seat for the first time. Instead, she is living what can only be described as a campaign finance nightmare. But she may awaken to find herself and her campaign surviving just fine.
But nothing could be further from the truth. While Moseley-Braun is clearly dedicated to fund-raising and used a $116,871 infusion from the Democratic National Committee to pay off 19 percent of her debt in 1993, she had only $590,585 in the bank at the end of March. Respectable, but hardly impressive: Only three of the twenty-nine incumbents seeking reelection this year had smaller cash reserves.
Digging a Financial Hole
Dwarfing all those payments is the $1,188,376 she has spent on lawyers and accountants.
The Federal Election Commission, unimpressed to say the least with Moseley-Braun's 1992 accounting, launched a full audit of her campaign's books. That audit racked up bills from three accountants totaling $558,174.
Prior to his 1996 dismissal, Moseley-Braun paid $167,628 to Earl Hopewell, her campaign's accountant throughout most of the 1992 campaign. Hopewell then sued the campaign and sought damages of $170,000, but he opted to settle when the operation coughed up another $120,000. The firms of Washington, Pittman & McKeever of Chicago and Vedolino & Lowery of Foxborough, Mass., collected $172,770 and $97,526, respectively, for helping to clean up the mess.
Fighting Hopewell's lawsuit and dealing with the FEC audit proved to be just the tip of Moseley-Braun's legal iceberg. She filed a formal complaint against her 1992 direct-mail fundraising consultant, accusing the firm of "breach of contract and unjust enrichment" and demanded a full accounting of their outlays and receipts.
In addition, the campaign filed suit against its landlord, Kezios Properties, seeking to remain in office space that it had occupied rent-free for five months in 1993 while trying to negotiate a new lease. Not to be outdone, the landlord counter-sued for $174,195 in unpaid rent. A court awarded Kezios Properties $56,020.
Finally, the campaign refused to pay one of its 1992 vendors, Bonzai Engineering Consultants, $41,805 in disputed charges for computer work. While Bonsai did not pursue its claim after November 1995, the committee decided to sue, seeking damages in excess of the disputed bill.
As a result, there was enough work to keep a dozen attorneys employed in some capacity. Since Jan. 1, 1993, the bills for all this legal wrangling have totaled $630,202.
Spending Money to Raise Money
In Chicago, Moseley-Braun has paid four event consultants a total of $229,655, with the Haymarket Group leading the way with a $108,783 bill. She also paid event planners in Pompano Beach, Fla., Sherman Oaks, Calif., Philadelphia, and Hermosa Beach, Calif., a total of $143,167.
Moseley-Braun has always done well bringing in donations of less than $200, and she invested more than $620,000 in direct-mail fundraising solicitations to collect roughly $1.8 million of them. She paid $512,117 to A B Data of Milwaukee as part of that effort, and Gordon & Schwenkmeyer charged $105,744 for telemarketing.
Facing a Moneyed Opponent
Freed from the expense of raising money he had raised just $399,670 from individuals through March 31 Fitzgerald will be able to pour a much larger percentage of his funds into television and radio advertising than will Moseley-Braun. In the primary, 70 percent, or $5,200,479, of Fitzgerald's outlays went into advertising created and placed by Stevens, Reed, Curcio & Company of Alexandria, Va. In other words, he spent roughly $3.8 million more than Moseley-Braun spent on broadcast advertising during all of the 1992 campaign, when she devoted just 21 percent of her spending to such ads.
To clinch the Republican nomination, Fitzgerald also spent $526,757 on a persuasion mailer designed by Karl Rove & Associates of Austin, Tex. more than twice as much as Moseley-Braun spent on persuasion mailers during the 1992 campaign.
Proving the Naysayers Wrong?
Thus, despite a virtual Mt. Everest of financial problems to scale, Moseley-Braun's campaign may follow the pattern exemplified by last week's California primaries: unlimited funds and advertising don't necessarily mean a majority of votes, and experience does matter in voters' eyes. Once considered extremely vulnerable to a challenge from a moderate Republican, she now seems poised to weather the inevitable advertising barrage and win a second term.
© Copyright 1998 Campaign Study Group