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January 15, 2007

Was GOP stingy with its campaign money?

Posted by David Postman at 8:48 AM

Eric Earling dug into the state Republican Party finances and says "there are indeed some troublesome issues with the State Party's 2006 fundraising." Earling says that under Chairwoman Diane Tebelius, the party did not spend what it could on close races where Republicans lost in November. Instead, the money was saved until after the election and used to pay off remaining debt from the legal fight over the governor's election.

Earling found:

Rep. Jon Serben lost by 260 votes in the 6th LD; the WSRP spent no money of the $57,280.30 possible under the cap

Don Anderson lost by 1,139 votes in the 28th LD; the WSRP spent no money under the $42,459.90 possible under the cap

Rep. Jan Shabro lost by 2,196 votes in the 31st LD; the WSRP spent $20,803.47 of the $49,609.70 possible under the cap

Sen. Dave Schmidt lost by 2,064 votes in the 44th LD; the WSRP spent no money of the $54,489.40 possible under the cap

Rep. Toby Nixon lost by 2,780 votes in the 45th LD; the WSRP spent $9,403.20 of the $53,234.30 possible under the cap

Mike Riley lost by 1,633 votes in the 47th LD; WSRP spent $28,209.60 of the $46,069.10 possible under the cap

Earling is writing about the fundraising in the context of the race for state party chair. Tebelius is facing a challenge from former state Sen. Luke Esser, who was defeated in November.

Questions about money management are clearly part of that campaign. A Republican friend mentioned to me Friday about the list of races where the state party could have spent more.

There is often a tension between party chairs and campaigns. Party officials are criticized by field operatives as being too concerned about internal operations and not willing to be bold in campaign spending. This was a major issue four years ago with former Chairman Don Benton, who lost his post, in part, because of complaints he had held back money from competitive races.

UPDATE: In the comment thread, Curt Eidem writes:

Even more interesting is the rumor that Dave Schmidt didn't spend $50,000 he had collected, holding it for a run at Snohomish County Auditor.

I just checked the Public Disclosure Commission site and Schmidt has more than that left over. Records show he has $67,627.28. There could still be bills to pay. (I don't see Schmidt's year-end report on the PDC site that would say for sure.)

Seems hard to criticize Tebelius for not spending all she could on a race if the candidate doesn't spend everything on hand, too. Schmidt has more left-over dough than any other state Senate candidate -- $8,000 more than the next closest.

Toby Nixon has $16,000 in surplus funds. He ranks 16th of 52 Senate candidates in terms of the amount of campaign funds left over.

UPDATE: I just talked to Tebelius. She said she wouldn't talk about specific funding decisions. But she says whatever happened, it wasn't on her say-so alone.

"It is really silly for anyone to believe that spending decisions are made in a vacuum and that they are made by one person. They are made in consultations with many different people because the Republican Party is a body of many. ... I cannot and will not reveal why certain decisions were made other than to say the decisions were made and they were right at the time.

"This year was difficult for everybody and unfortunately we came out on the short end " but not because of money."

Tebelius pointed out that Esser was able to raise $407,000 for his campaign. That makes that the third largest legislative campaign account in state history.

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