By the numbers: Brock outspends Shumlin on consultants, advertising and lends himself $300,000
by Nat Rudarakanchana vtdigger.org The latest campaign finance filings show that in the governor’s race, candidate Randy Brock raised more money than Gov. Peter Shumlin in the last year by about $37,500, with Brock’s take of $529,600 beating Shumlin’s $492,100, not counting the $187,000 the governor brought in last year.
Of that total, Brock lent himself $300,000 and raised $229,600 from contributions. In the same period, Shumlin raised $429,100 from donors, with only $1,200 coming from himself or his immediate family.
This past year, Shumlin raised about $23,800 from 378 donors contributing $100 or less, while Brock raised about $41,150 from small donors.
Shumlin’s campaign said in a statement that it was “honored and humbled by the outpouring of financial support that the campaign has received.”
Brock spent just over $280,000, mostly on local and out-of-state consultants and political communications firms, compared to Shumlin’s modest expenditures of $36,800 for the past 12 months.
Brock attributed his much higher expenditures to the need to advertise in a race against an incumbent opponent. “Gov. Shumlin has not, during this reporting period, done any advertising, to the best of my knowledge, and that’s the difference,” said Brock.
Brock conceded he needs to raise much more money during the coming months to make up for such heavy expenditures.
“A new candidate running for statewide office needs to introduce himself to an audience, and the way you do that obviously is through the Internet, TV, and all those other mechanisms,” he continued. “The governor is by virtue of incumbency, well-known.”
As for the $300,000 out of his own pocket, Brock said: “First, the loan is an amount lower than that which Shumlin loaned himself in the first gubernatorial campaign; and second, one of the purposes of advancing this money is that, I don’t feel that I should be asking others to invest in a campaign I’m not willing to invest in myself.”
Brock said he divided his consulting and advertising expenditures into four main areas: He put Darcie Johnston, his campaign manager, in charge of fundraising, events, and local printing ($63,000); he hired Dresner, Wickers, Barbar, Sanders for general consulting and print media ($30,350); the Strategy Group for Media is buying TV and radio advertising for the campaign ($115,000); and the Prosper Group Corporation ($12,800) is handling his Internet and social media presence.
Three of Brock’s four consultants are out-of-state firms with ties to national GOP politics.
According to Sourcewatch.org, the Strategy Group for Media, which has helped a number of Republicans gain office in the U.S. House, produced an ad criticizing John Kerry. The firm also has ties to the Citizens United PAC.
Brock’s consultants Dresner, Wickers, Barbar, Sanders, past clients include former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee along with several other senators, governors and congressmen.
Bob Wickers is now working as a senior advisor to Mitt Romney’s campaign. Based in San Francisco, the firm’s co-founders Wickers and Dick Dresner have both worked for former Russian President Boris Yelstin.
Brock said he hired Dresner, Wickers, Barbar, Sanders, because Wickers had worked on Vermont campaigns going back to 1988 for James Jeffords, and Dresner helped with Brock on his first 2004 auditor campaign.
Although none of the sampling of past and current clients on the firm’s website is associated with Vermont, Brock speculated on why: “Maybe because Vermont is so small, they don’t advertise their Vermont clients there.”
The Prosper Group Corp., an Indiana firm with an office in Alexandria, Va., focuses on online political strategies and telephone campaigns, boasts high-profile clients like Democrat Harry Reid and Republican Christine O’Donnell.
The Prosper Group registered the IP address for Brock’s website this year and last year used the same address for the Vermonters for Health Care Freedom website, a 501(c)4 advocacy group that opposes Shumlin’s single payer health care reform effort. Ditto seven candidates for the U.S. Congress, including Scott Brown, the Republican U.S. Senator from Massachusetts. (VHCF was founded in March 2011 by Johnston. She left the group to manage Brock’s campaign.)
Shumlin, too, spent money on an outside consultant — $1,500 on Lori LaFave, a Virginia Democratic fundraising consultant and wife of leading Democratic media player Steve Murphy.
He also paid Amanda McKay, an executive assistant to Howard Dean and member of the Vermont PAC Democracy for America, about $1,650: McKay has worked on the campaigns of various congressmen nationwide, in states like Florida and New York.
Erika Wolffing, the finance director for Shumlin’s campaign, said she didn’t know why the campaign brought in McKay specifically for fundraising consulting, but said that she mainly worked to “keep some money coming in, and do some fundraising on the side.”
As for McKay’s connection with former Gov. Dean, Wolffing said: “Obviously Gov. Dean was very supportive of us in the 2010 cycle. That relationship continues to be very strong in this campaign cycle, and it’s a pretty well-known connection.”
Meanwhile, the Vermont Democratic Party has hired Stanford Campaigns, a Texas firm, to conduct opposition research into Brock’s tenure as state auditor in 2005 and 2006, according to the Vermont Press Bureau. An analyst with www.oppresearch.com placed a public records request with the state auditor’s office in June.
Shumlin hired the company, which has a reputation for “negative tactics,”according to the bureau, during his 2010 gubernatorial race against Republican Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie. Shumlin narrowly won that election.
Stanford Campaigns has worked for dozens of Democratic candidates who served in Congress. Most notably, the firm has consulted with NARAL Pro-Choice America and the Service Employees International Union, which boasts 2.1 million members. SEIU made a large contribution ($6,000) to Shumlin this campaign finance cycle.