By Gene Rossides
Senator John McCainʼs campaign for the Republican presidential nomination ran into staffing and finance problems this past week which resulted in two top aides and other staff leaving and dramatized the important roles of staff and money in presidential campaigns and also in congressional and senatorial campaigns.
A competent campaign staff is obviously important. Decisions recommended by the staff regarding issues to be stressed; speaking engagements to accept; media messages and a fundraising program, among others, are essential elements of any campaign.
In Senator McCainʼs case the internal staff disputes and disagreements over a period of months resulted in a serious drop in the polls, where he had been a front-runner, and a dismal fund-raising effort in the first and second quarters of 2007.
The New York Times reported that McCainʼs “campaign had burned through most of the $24 million it had raised in the first half of the year on hefty salaries for staff members and consultants, a heavy travel schedule and all manner of other expenses, leaving it with less cash at the end of June than even the bare-bones presidential campaign of Representative Ron Paul, Republican of Texas.” (NYTimes, 7-11-07; A1; col. 1)
McCainʼs aides said he became aware of the situation in late June which led to the shakeup on July 10, 2007. McCain stated in response to reporterʼs questions that he would definitely continue his campaign.
Aside from the role of staff, McCainʼs troubles highlighted the role of money and fundraising in political campaigns generally and in particular in presidential nomination campaigns. While the public has no role in the staffing of a presidential nomination campaign, it does have a key role in campaign fundraising.
One of the reasons I oppose public financing of campaigns is that it would basically eliminate an important role of the public. Public financing would eliminate the requirement that a candidate go before the public and ask them to support his campaign, in effect, his position on the issues, with a campaign contribution. It gives the public an important opportunity to be heard.
Letʼs look at what the candidates are raising and what they are spending. Campaign finance reports are required to be filed with the Federal Election Commission.
Presidential candidates are raising more money than ever before but are also spending more than ever before, leaving some candidates with little ready cash six months before the first votes in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. This election cycle now includes Nevada and Wyoming with Florida scheduled for January 29, 2008.
February 5, 2008 is the “ultimate” primary date because more than a dozen states will hold primaries, including California, New York and New Jersey.
Some candidates have already decided to withdraw rather than risk huge debts. Former Virginia governor James S. Gilmore III, Republican, decided on Saturday July 14, 2007 to withdraw. Earlier in the year, Senator Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) and former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack (D) had decided to withdraw because of the problem of funding their campaigns.
The two front-runners in the Democratic Party, Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) raised huge amounts of cash in the second quarter, April-June 2007, and spent half of what they raised. Senator Obama raised $32 million in the second quarter. His total contributions reached a staggering $56.8 million. He spent $16 million in the second quarter and reported $34.5 million in cash on hand.
Senator Clinton raised $21.5 million in the second quarter and total contributions were $31.5 million. She spent $12.5 million in the second quarter which was 58% of what she raised in the second quarter. She reported $33 million in cash on hand.
Former Senator John Edwards (D-N.C.) the third leading candidate raised $8.7 million in the second quarter and total contributions of $21.6, while spending $6.4 million in the second quarter which was 74% of what he raised in the second quarter. He reported $12 million in cash on hand.
The fourth leading Democratic candidate is New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who has moved up in the polls. Governor Richardson raised $6.8 million in the second quarter for a total of $13.1 million and spent $5 million in the second quarter or 73% of what he raised in the second quarter. He reported $7 million in cash on hand.
These candidates are followed by Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) with $4.7 million in cash on hand, Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) with $1.9 million in cash on hand and Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) with $200,000 dollars in cash on hand.
On the Republican side the two front runners are former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani who raised $14.7 million in the second quarter for a total contribution amount of $29.6 million and spent $11 million in the second quarter which is 75% of what he raised. He listed cash on hand at $14.6 million.
Governor Mitt Romney (R-MA) raised 13.8 million in the second quarter for a total of $34.5 million overall and spent a huge amount, $20.5 million in the second quarter which was one and a half times what he raised in that quarter. He reported $12.1 million in cash on hand. Governor Romney spent that amount in the second quarter to get his message out and his name known. According to analysts he succeeded.
Governor Romney has a real advantage over the other candidates in that he can utilize his personal fortune which is estimated to be well-over a hundred million dollars.
Senator John McCain, the former front-runner, is now below Giuliani and Romney in the polls but a definite contender at this juncture in the campaign.
Following Giuliani, Romney and McCain is the lower tier of Republicans, Representative Ron Paul (Texas), Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), former Arkansas governor, Mike Huckabee (R) and former Wisconsin governor Tommy Thompson. They have reported the following amounts in cash on hand: Paul $2.4 million; Brownback one-half million dollars; Huckabee $400,000 dollars and Tommy Thompson $100,000 dollars.
The figures I have used are from the Washington Post chart. (7-16-07; A10; col. 2)
Former Senator Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) is expected to announce his candidacy soon. There are polls that demonstrate that Thompson would join Giuliani and Romney in the front tier of the Republican candidates.
Former Republican governor of Virginia, James G. Gilmore who withdrew on July 14, 2007 said that he had not realized in time how much money and preparation is needed to run for president.
“It takes years of preparation to put in place both the political and financial infrastructure to contest what now amounts to a one-day national primary in February,” Mr. Gilmore said. (Wash.Times, 7-16-07; A7; col. 1)
Campaign Finance and Greek Americans
All Americans, of course, can play a role in presidential campaign finance by contributing to the candidate of their choice. I urge Greek Americans to increase substantially their involvement in politics by becoming actively involved in the area of campaign finance in two ways: (1) contribute to the candidate of your choice and (2) raise money for him or her.
The Jewish American community is the most active community in foreign policy issues in the U.S. One reason for their effectiveness is the tremendous job they do in contributing to federal candidates and raising money for them. It has been reported that close to 50% of all contributions to Democratic candidates comes from Jewish Americans. They are also substantial contributors to Republican candidates.
Contributing to a candidate, federal, state or local does not mean the candidate will necessarily agree with oneʼs positions. But it does offer the opportunity to have greater access to be heard.
Select a presidential candidate of your choice and contribute to his or her campaign. It is important and it will help regarding issues of concern to the Greek American community. Further, if you want to be an American Hellenic Institute contact person with a candidate of your choice please e-mail Nick Larigakis, AHI Executive Director- e-mail email@example.com.
Gene Rossides is President of the American Hellenic Institute and former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury