Josh Kurtz: Wise Investments

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By: Josh Kurtz 

Maybe one day, a year from now, when Doug Gansler is about to be sworn in as Maryland’s next governor, we’ll look back at his campaign strategy and say, “Wow. Yeah. He had a plan all along and he executed it to perfection.”

But with each passing day, the chances of that ever happening grow dimmer and dimmer.

Instead, with the release of the latest campaign finance reports last week, we’re left to wonder how Gansler squandered the one tangible advantage he had in the Democratic primary: a lead in the money chase.

Whether it was hubris, thinking he was so far ahead that he could dictate the terms of the contest and deploy his resources on his own schedule, or whether it really was the quaint notion that the voters weren’t paying attention and that he’d meet them when they were ready, Gansler sat on his money for too long. That’s been evident in myriad ways; the finance reports only confirm it.

Say what you will about Anthony Brown’s campaign: It may be top heavy, consultant-driven and unimaginative; money may be pouring out the door. But you can tell he’s invested enough to put together an infrastructure that should be able to see him through the primary and the general election.

Gansler may say that he’s held back on spending for the last-minute sprint to the primary, that he’s running a lean, mean fighting machine, and that he’ll have plenty to spend on a late advertising blitz. But what the campaign finance reports reveal is that he has no discernible strategy and a flinty infrastructure, that he’s been futzing around, changing campaign managers – and, presumably, campaign visions – frequently. And Brown will be able to match him, dollar-for-dollar, on critical last-minute TV ads.

Meanwhile, the template for running an effective low-budget campaign is Heather Mizeur’s, not Gansler’s.

Most people have focused on the top-line fundraising numbers since they came out last week. But the expenditures tell part of the story, too.

Brown spent almost $1.6 million over the past year. Broken down, that includes $665,000 in salaries, $69,000 in office rent, $100,000 in field expenses, $175,000 on media, $64,000 on printing, $364,000 on fundraising expenses, and $114,000 on “other.”

Brown’s campaign manager, Justin Schall, was paid $9,000 a month at the start of the campaign, and he’s earned $10,000 a month more recently. Quincey Gamble, another top Brown staffer, was being paid $10,000 a month at the start of the campaign, before Schall came on board; he’s now earning $7,000 a month.

Consultants have been paid handsomely.

Peter Hart Research, the polling firm, earned $35,000. Ann Lewis, a former Clinton administration official and sister of former Congressman Barney Frank (D-Mass.), was paid $55,000. Spiros Consulting, a D.C.-based opposition research firm, earned about $88,000 (an investment that has no doubt paid dividends). Berger Hirschberg Strategies, a national fundraising firm, was paid $86,000. But no one was paid as much as Colleen Martin-Lauer, the Baltimore-based fundraiser and strategist extraordinarie, who earned almost $119,000.

Brown’s spending, of course, was augmented by the healthy campaign war chest of his running mate, Ken Ulman. Ulman’s campaign committee spent $493,000 over the past year -- $243,000 on salaries, $9,000 on office rent, $56,000 on field operations, $6,700 on media, $7,800 on printing expenses, $39,000 on fundraising expenses, and $104,000 on “other.”

How much of this spending was related to Ulman’s erstwhile gubernatorial effort, and how much was related to the joint effort is impossible to say. But it serves as a reminder that running mates can, in fact, make a huge difference. Ulman’s cash on hand figure – more than $3 million – has contributed to the Brown team’s overall lead in the money chase (and suggests that Dan Clemens and his clients, suing to prevent Ulman from fundraising during the legislative session, have a pretty good point).

Gansler spent $585,000 in the past year. The outlay included $228,000 on wages, $31,000 on office rental, $19,000 on field expenses, $134,000 on media, $52,000 on printing, $65,000 on fundraising, and $11,000 on “other.”

Gansler paid the Mellman Group, a polling firm, $64,000. Gansler’s fundraising consultant, Rachel Rice, earned $41,000. SKD Knickerbocker, the high-end political consulting firm headed by Gansler’s top hired gun, Bill Knapp, has thus far only collected $5,700 from the campaign.

Gansler’s campaign managers – and he’s on his third – appear to have been earning about $6,000 a month. That’s an awfully low figure for a modern statewide campaign.

Through early January, the relatively new joint committee set up for Gansler and his running mate, Jolene Ivey, hadn’t spent a dime, though it had raised $129,000.  Ivey’s own modest campaign nut, $68,000, does not seem to have been deployed extensively by the Gansler team yet.

Mizeur has spent $501,000 in the past year between her main campaign committee and the joint committee set up for Mizeur and her running mate, Delman Coates-- $400,000 in salaries, $39,000 in rent, $3,700 in field expenses, $30,000 in media, $5,700 in printing, $6,000 in mail, and almost $15,000 in fundraising. You can’t tell what she’s paying her staffers individually, because all salaries are being paid out by an entity called the Payroll Network. Pollster Celinda Lake has been paid $40,000, and MB Political Research, a firm in Clarksburg, Md., was paid $40,000.

COMING TOMORROW: A quick look at fundraising in other races.

Josh Kurtz is editor of Environment & Energy Daily, a Capitol Hill publication. He can be reached at .

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Josh Kurtz has been writing about Maryland politics since late 1995. Louie Goldstein, William Donald Schaefer and Pete Rawlings were alive, but the Intercounty Connector, as far as anyone could tell, was dead.

But some things never change: Mike Miller is still in charge of the Senate. Gerry Evans and Bruce Bereano are among the top-earning lobbyists in Annapolis. Steny Hoyer is still waiting for Nancy Pelosi to disappear. And Maryland Republicans are still struggling to be relevant.

The media landscape in Maryland has changed a lot, and Kurtz is happy to write weekly for Center Maryland. He's been writing a column for the website since it launched in January 2010.

In his "real" job, Kurtz is editor of Environment & Energy Daily down on Capitol Hill. But he'll always find Maryland politics more fascinating.

Kurtz grew up in New York City and attended public schools there. He has a BA in History from the University of Wisconsin and an MS in Journalism from Columbia University. He's married with two daughters and lives in Takoma Park, Md. He hopes you'll drop him a line, or maybe go out for a meal with him, because he's always hungry -- for political gossip.