Political Animal


February 28, 2012 10:11 AM Consultants Feast on Mitt

By Ed Kilgore

As Walter Shapiro explained in the last issue of the Washington Monthly, one of the sources of the corrupting power of money in politics is from within the campaigns themselves, as consultants rip off candidates and then force them to hire other consultants to raise the money to pay them. Some campaigns are more vulnerable to this kind of vampire effect than others. But all the signs are that Mitt Romney’s campaign is a veritable blood bank.

Here’s a report today from WaPo’s Dan Eggan:

Although many candidates hire firms created by former staff members, the extent of the Romney campaign’s reliance on such companies is unusual for a major presidential bid, experts say. Many of the firms Romney uses are run by former aides from his 2008 campaign.
The arrangement not only benefits several of those close to the former Massachusetts governor but also makes it harder to determine how he is spending his donors’ money, because salaries and other details about outside operations are kept under wraps.
A big chunk of Romney’s outside operation is housed 20 miles north of Boston in an office building in Beverly, Mass., which is listed as the address for four firms doing work for the Romney campaign, disclosure records show.
The largest is American Rambler — named for the automobile that Romney’s father helped develop — which several former aides created in early 2011 to handle advertising and other media work. Staff members include senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom and several others who worked on Romney’s 2008 presidential campaign, according to records and news reports.
American Rambler has taken in $15.4 million from Romney for media buys, polling and other costs through Jan. 31, including about $11 million for broadcast ads and $1.5 million for “strategic consulting,” according to disclosure documents filed with the Federal Election Commission. As with all such vendors, no information is revealed about salaries or other internal costs.

If, as is traditionally the case, media consultants are paid a percentage of the cost of “buys” rather than a flat fee, then it’s no wonder Team Romney is spending so much on ads.

Such arrangements may seem efficient to campaigns that want to minimize the hassle of accountability, but down the road they can become a really bad habit, both for the consultants who get used to getting paid no matter how the campaign is doing, and for the candidate, who loses track of why he or she is spending so much time dialing for dollars or writing thank-you notes to wealthy people with a long list of favors they’ll someday need.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • sduffys on February 28, 2012 10:26 AM:

    Jeebus... its getting like bad Hollywood divorce cases; neither party (read candidates) are content; yet - the opposing lawyers make money hand-in fist.

  • Diane Rodriguez on February 28, 2012 10:29 AM:

    Mitt is familiar with slopping the pigs, he's been on both sides. Clearly he isn't bothered by either the stench or the muck he is standing in.

  • Ron Byers on February 28, 2012 10:34 AM:

    Mitt is a very successful vulture capitalist, well schooled in just how to separate an organization from its money. I would be shocked if he were the victim here. I wonder how much of the consultants money ends up in Mitt's pocket.

  • Peter C on February 28, 2012 10:36 AM:

    This is just wingnut welfare. How do you keep FOX in business? - Permit the incredible rise in the costs of campaigns. Who gets this money? Murdoch, Wingnut writers, Wingnut actors, Wingnut pollsters, Wingnut activists, Wingnut neighborhood organizers, Wingnut Church liaisons, and on and on and on.

    It pays for saturation spin which supports their frames, defines the terms of the debate, and permits their core supporters to believe the Republican version of reality. I pays a situation whereby driving across the country you can only pick up right-wing radio, so that when you see the 'Where the Birth Certificate' bill board, you think there is something to it.

    The Republicans realize that propaganda is expensive, so they've structured the system so that the 1% pay for 'influence' by funding the right-wing echo chamber.

  • biggerbox on February 28, 2012 10:51 AM:

    Why shouldn't Mitt's team practice crony capitalism on the campaign trail? Then they'll be well practiced should they actually win the White House. Isn't that why rich Republicans run for the office, to loot the Treasury?

  • MuddyLee on February 28, 2012 11:06 AM:

    As the former driver of a 1960 Rambler six cylinder with 3 on the column, I resent it greatly that one of these repub corruption machines is called American Rambler.

  • slf on February 28, 2012 11:16 AM:

    There's a lot wrong with the primary system -- think of all the scholarships the money wasted in primaries could fund, or clinics, or pre-K programs or cancer research! But they show us, again and again, what candidates are made of, the kind of people they hire and rely on, the way they spend their money. Hillary Clinton is smart and a first-class candidate in so many ways, but she hired the loathsome Mark Penn who took her to the cleaners for $5 million and her campaign wasted tens of thousands of dollars, according to one report I read, on providing flowers for the former First Lady wherever she went. As Amy Pohlher sometimes says, "Really? Really?" So democracy is messy, but we learn certain things.

  • Mimikatz on February 28, 2012 11:17 AM:

    During the 2008 campaign Obama's answer to people who said he lacked executive experience was "look to the campaign to see how I run a large organization.". No drama, a lean organization, very efficient and disciplined. Look at Romney OTOH. Cronies, padded expenses, fleecing the donors to pay for it, all harbingers of how he would govern, WI the taxpayers playing the role of sheep.

    A party of con men ends up conning each other, with the big donors just the latest marks.

  • Perspecticus on February 28, 2012 11:24 AM:

    Obviously Romney is shoring up his "job creator" bona fides.

  • bob h on February 28, 2012 11:35 AM:

    .. or why he is having to spend his own money.

  • bh on February 28, 2012 12:27 PM:

    If, as is traditionally the case, media consultants are paid a percentage of the cost of “buys” rather than a flat fee, then it’s no wonder Team Romney is spending so much on ads.

    This a really widespread practice in industry as well as politics, but it's also completely insane.

    Just consider the incentives: to maximize your income, you maximize media costs w/o regard to their effectiveness. So rather than finding targeted vehicles that deliver your message efficiently, you actually seek out the opposite, because that's how you maximize your -- well, your client's -- costs.

    A lot of Broadcast TV advertising that makes everyone shake their heads and say, "Why did they run this?" is actually driven by this compensation system.

  • MuddyLee on February 28, 2012 12:40 PM:

    Romney and other CEO types are used to fleecing the shareholders (fancy offices, original art on the walls, meetings at fancy resorts, first class travel, limos etc) but yet they claim they could run the government "like a business" - which business? Enron? Look at his campaign operations - it's not exactly an Amazon warehouse is it?

  • AndThenThere'sThat on February 28, 2012 1:07 PM:

    If anybody knows about exorbitant consulting fees irregardless of performance, it would be the former CEO of Bain Capital.

  • jjm on February 28, 2012 1:53 PM:

    To AndThenThere'sThat: precisely! For Romney to be preyed upon by these obviously not terribly good 'consultants' may just be karma...

  • gottacook on February 28, 2012 4:01 PM:

    That's Dan Eggen (pronounced ee-gen), by the way, not Eggan.