The Spike smells fall. The shelves at Walgreens are stocked with candy corn, and every intersection in town is blocked with big, ugly signs advertising big, ugly candidates. It's almost Election Day.
One of the most obvious by-products of the Clean Elections law is that the big, ugly signs are smaller than in years past -- and uglier. Makes sense. Candidates have less to spend. Not so in the federal races, where campaign finance reform is still a myth, and money pours like Snickers bars into plastic pumpkins.
Here in Arizona, incumbent congressional candidate J.D. Hayworth has the biggest pumpkin by far this year. As a member of the powerful Ways and Means Committee -- The Spike's pretty sure that "powerful" is actually an official part of the committee's name -- Hayworth is a champion fund raiser. At last count, he'd raised $1,274,870, plus another $217,271 raised through his own political action committee, TEAM PAC.
Fund raising is hard work, so The Spike's got to wonder why J.D. bothers. Let's face it. The Republican could have spent the election season on the couch and probably still walked away with the race. Democrat Craig Columbus, his opponent, is really smart, and a more-than-worthy candidate -- which, as anyone who's ever voted in an election in this state knows, practically disqualifies him on the spot. The poor guy's only scraped up $306,756.
The political gossips in town say J.D. is raising cash in anticipation of a run for the Senate in 2004, if John McCain really can be wrested out of his seat. But after looking at J.D.'s expenditure reports for the current campaign season, The Spike's not so sure. Maybe J.D.'s just raising money so he can spend it.
On his wife, for one thing.
Mary Hayworth of Cave Creek is pulling down about $2,000 a month from the payroll of TEAM PAC, J.D.'s political action committee. Nice work if you can get it. And not completely unheard of, amazingly.
"It never looks good to pay your spouse from campaign funds, but it's legal as long as they're actually doing work. I don't think it happens too much [probably because it's not exactly great PR at election time], but it does happen," Larry Makinson, a longtime campaign finance guru, tells The Spike.
That just made The Spike more curious. Thanks to some data postings by the folks at the Center for Responsive Politics in Washington, D.C. (Makinson's a senior fellow with CRP), The Spike was able to compare Hayworth's spending habits with those of Columbus. The most recent information only covers spending through September 30, but it gives The Spike a pretty good idea of what it's like to run a campaign when you're Big Foot -- and what it's like to run a campaign on a shoestring. For purposes of comparison, Hayworth's personal campaign and PAC funds were combined. Columbus doesn't have a PAC. All numbers mentioned here are minimums, since candidates aren't required to itemize expenses under $200.
There are no Columbus family members on Craig's payroll. In fact, the payroll is pretty slim. Columbus has paid $5,822 in payroll taxes. Hayworth, meanwhile, has shelled out $75,523.
And Hayworth's employees are apparently pretty chatty. Phone bills for the Hayworth campaign (and remember, most of this is before J.D. even had an opponent, since he was unopposed in the primary) top out at $36,540. Get a new calling plan, J.D.! Columbus doesn't itemize his phone bills on his expenditure reports, but he estimates he's spent about $3,600.
J.D. -- or someone on his campaign -- spent $161 on an airplane phone call. Not surprising, since the campaign has spent $30,995 on air travel. Columbus on air travel: $1,057.
When he's not airborne, J.D.'s clearly burning up the Post-it notes. The campaign has spent $10,245 on office supplies. Columbus? $4,459.
J.D. spent $4,234 on a campaign photographer; Columbus, $250.
The Hayworth campaign staff has been enjoying monthly deliveries of Sierra Springs water -- almost $500 worth, total. Craig Columbus serves tap water.
Craig Columbus is so broke, his expenditure reports were a yawn. It's hard to part with change when you've dumped it in the piggy yourself, like Columbus has. But The Spike learned a lot more about the Hayworth campaign. J.D. throws fund raisers at the Ritz in D.C., but at La Quinta in Flagstaff. He clearly spares no expense, in either case -- the campaign blew $1,145 at the Y-Knot Party Shoppe in Tempe.
Everyone eats well, too. There were several fund-raising trips to Mastro's steak house listed on the reports -- $11,571 worth, plus another $1,316 at Outback. Better watch it, Mr. Congressman -- you'll raise more cholesterol than money. Campaign meetings at Ajo Al's Mexican restaurant are apparently a tradition as well. Santa Hayworth even buys his campaign elves Christmas gifts -- at See's Candies and T.J. Maxx. (Whoops -- hope he didn't try to pass those T.J. Maxx bargains off as Saks Fifth Avenue.) Everyone on the Hayworth campaign is also well-dressed. J.D. spent $2,323 on campaign tee shirts. The biggest shocker? They're well-read: The campaign shelled out $881 for "political books."
The Spike is considering applying for a job on the Hayworth campaign. After all, how much actual work could there be? Sounds like just a lot of shopping. The Spike can do that. And then next month, Hayworth will sail to victory yet again -- and then the month after that, everyone will get a Christmas gift.
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The Spike had many questions about Congressman Hayworth's expenditure reports -- starting with Mary Hayworth's campaign responsibilities -- but, alas, several calls to Chad Willems, the campaign's finance director, went unreturned.
Willems must be busy spending that $95,591 he's been paid by his generous boss.
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