When I heard Saturday night that Libertarian Bruce Guthrie was going to put nearly $1.2 million into his Senate campaign it immediately struck me as a gutsy, self-confident and highly risky investment in his political future.
But maybe I should have included "clever" in that list. Coverage today shows Guthrie is not committed to spending the money. He says part of his motivation was to get into the KING 5/Seattle Times debate. Organizers had set a level of money raised as one of the possible ways to get an invitation to one of only two debates scheduled so far between Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell and Republican challenger Mike McGavick. From the PI:
"I cannot tell a lie. It's not a coincidence," Guthrie said. "One of the reasons for the exact amount is that KING/5 requirement."
And after appearing on the televised debate, the money could just revert back to his personal account.
"If the fundraising doesn't go well, I might not spend most of it. If the fundraising does go well, I might spend most of it."
Guthrie declined to tell The News Tribune if the campaign would spend his money.
He said campaign contributions have been rolling in since he made the loan Saturday, and that he'd certainly spend that money.
One thing that Guthrie seemed perfectly clear about when we spoke Saturday was that the $1.2 million was all the money he had to loan his campaign. He said:
"It is absolutely everything I could scrape together. I mortgaged my house, my only house, in Bellingham. I mortgaged it as much as the bank would let me mortgage it. And I put up all the savings that my former wife and I were able to save in our 17 years of marriage."
But The News Tribune says today:
In addition, Guthrie said, he has a $3 million real estate investment he could sell to further fund his campaign, if needed.
Even with what seemed like an infusion of cash to make his campaign one of the best-funded Libertarian campaigns ever, the expectations for his candidacy remain more in the symbolic realm. Austin Cassidy, who writes Third Party Watch, says:
If Guthrie makes a big splash into the high single digits or low-double digits, it seems like he could be given credit for helping to shape the balance of the Senate. I'm not sure if he pulls more from Cantwell or her GOP challenger, but either way the press will probably pick up on it in a big way if he captures an amount much greater than the margin of victory.
And I'll even go a step further and suggest that if Guthrie does perform exceptionally well in this race, he should be considered for a spot on the national ticket in 2008.
Here is what organizers of the KING 5 debate sent the campaigns:
For purposes of sponsoring debates we divide elections into two periods relative to the election date, the out-period and the in-period. This debate will fall within an in-period, that is, 30 days or less before an election. Two general criteria need to be met for inclusion in the debate: the candidate must show a serious purpose and demonstrate significant public support.
To demonstrate seriousness of purpose and significant public support the candidate shall meet all legal qualifications to hold the office and qualify for the ballot. In addition, the candidate must meet one or more of the following criteria:
1) The candidate has received 10 percent or more of the vote, tested in a trial heat, in a professionally conducted public opinion survey by an experienced pollster based on a scientific sample of the entire electorate with a margin of error of five percent or less (at a 95 percent level of confidence).
A pollster shall be considered "experienced" if he or she is a member of the American Association of Political Consultants, the World Association for Public Opinion Research, American Association for Public Opinion Research or the American Political Science Association for at least three years; and has either been employed by media or other nonpartisan organizations to do national, statewide or congressional district polling with published results, or has been employed professionally, as evidenced by reports filed with governmental entities, by at least three political campaigns in at least three separate elections, political committees or candidates for statewide, congressional, countywide and/or state legislative offices.
2) The candidate previously had been elected to, or held, the office he or she is seeking.
3) The candidate is the official nominee of a political party that: (a) received at least 10 percent of the vote in the most recent prior Washington gubernatorial general election; or (b) received at least 10 percent of the vote in the prior presidential general election in Washington; or (c) received at least 15 percent of the vote in the prior general election for the office to which he or she is seeking.
4) The candidate sought the same office during the prior 8 years and received at least 30 percent of the vote in the general election.
Campaign fundraising can also be an indicator of seriousness of purpose and public support. To meet our standard, a candidate must show they have raised ten percent of the funds raised by the winner of the previous election for that position. The standard will be determined by taking the latest mandated financial report for the campaign and comparing it to the financial report filed for the comparable period of time by the winner of previous election for the position. If the report indicates the candidate has raised ten percent of the prior winner's fundraising total for the comparable reporting period then the candidate will have demonstrated significant public support.
For this debate we will take the 2004 third quarter fundraising report Senator Patty Murray's filed with the federal Election Commission - $12,096,027.60.