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March 11, 2012 05:18 PM UTC

Yes, Pollyanna. Republicans Have No Money.

  • by: Colorado Pols

We’ve been trying to figure out an unusual story published late Friday by Karen Crummy of the Denver paper, and printed in the Sunday edition today. Though we’ll always remember Crummy’s stand-up work reporting the story of 2010 GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis’ alleged plagiarism, there have been a few write-ups in her long career that have left us–and plenty of others–scratching our heads. This is definitely one of those situations.

To briefly summarize, Crummy makes the fairly bewildering claim that Democrats spent “nearly 150 times more money” in 2010 than Republicans. Amusingly, Democrats didn’t seem interested in pointing out the rather obvious problems with this, but were happy to take credit for the supposed disparity. Reading like a high school book report on Adam Schrager and Rob Witwer’s Blueprint: How The Democrats Won Colorado, Crummy breathlessly asserts that Democrats spent some $4.2 million to the Republicans’ $28,000, and that this eye-popping disparity is the reason why Democrats did comparatively well in Colorado in 2010.

This entire narrative depends on focusing solely on post-Citizens United “independent expenditure” groups, who are allowed to use so-called “magic words” express advocacy for candidates as long as they do not coordinate with that candidate’s campaign. That’s one piece of the puzzle for which records do exist, but the truth is that Republicans, while they may not have fully utilized these newer committees that require full disclosure in exchange for more freedom to advocate, certainly spent their share in 2010. To imply they did not is patently ridiculous:

Remember these? Just a few examples of mailers sent in 2010 against Democratic state legislative candidates from Western Tradition Partnership: a political attack group for Republicans organized as a “501(c)4” organization under the tax code. 501(c)4 groups aren’t allowed to expressly advocate, but as you can see, they can still say a candidate eats babies and hates America. You could argue the line is pretty thin here (see: burning house).

But most importantly, 501(c)4 groups don’t have to disclose their donors or spending.

Western Tradition Partnership is just one of many GOP-aligned “C4” organizations that played in the 2010 elections. Not merely as donors to “independent” groups, but directly engaging themselves with no requirement to disclose. How do we know Republicans had all the money they needed spread out among their own phalanx of attack groups, despite what this story says?

Easy: they told us. Josh Penry, in a column last year in the Colorado Statesman:

[T]he efforts of Team Szabo and her many loyal supporters alone wouldn’t have been enough to beat Gagliardi, herself a proven campaigner. No longer is it enough for our candidate to match the effort and know-how of the other candidate. Conservative 527’s, C-4’s and other independent groups have to do the same. [Pols emphasis]

That’s where that wunderkind that you’ve never heard of – Andy George – enters this saga. Thanks to an unprecedented fundraising haul by Frank McNulty, Rep. Amy Stephens and the statehouse GOP team, Andy had a flush bankroll [Pols emphasis] to launch a whole lot of precision-guided 527 assaults of his own…

These stories are important because they remind us that conservatives can win in Colorado, yes, even against the vaunted liberal infrastructure in this great state. And win we frequently did in 2010.

Of course, even experienced operatives confusingly use “527” as shorthand for all kinds of political message groups, including 501(c)4s. We assume that’s what Penry did here. And naturally, we’re assuming in snow-white good faith that Republicans didn’t spend more than $28,000 in properly disclosable “independent committee” funds, and simply did not disclose it. It occurs to us that Scott Gessler probably would not have complained…

Anyway, folks, you can either take the word of Karen Crummy, who looked at one kind of political spending by Democrats for which amounts are actually disclosed and would seem to want readers to believe no other spending occurred, or you can take the word of Josh Penry when he boasts of the GOP’s “flush bankroll” in the 2010 elections–a claim plainly backed by visibly big-spending GOP groups who simply did not disclose. And while we understand which version will work better for building urgency among Republican donors this year, which might perhaps be the purpose of this absurdly premised story, only one such narrative is based in reality.

And as flattered as Democrats may be, that’s Josh Penry’s version.


12 thoughts on “Yes, Pollyanna. Republicans Have No Money.

  1. and is bound to scare the hell out of conspiracy Republicans who need to shell out more for their candidates.

    It paints Republicans as paupers.

    Another crummy slanted article by cheerleader Karen.

    1. The’re afraid that the GOP can’t expect to win elections on the backs of just a few hard-pressed billionaires, who are exhausted from supporting the Presidential Primaries Traveling Clown Show.

  2. It tells a 6 year old story like it’s new, and then includes insanely bad math that shows total ignorance of the 2010 cycle.

    It’s basically like saying the Republicans had no IE programs in 2010!

    Did she not bother to look up the Colorado Leadership Fund a well known GOP 527? Of Colorado Citizens for Accountable Government? Etc., etc.

    The Republicans have a very sophisticated network of operatives, lawyers, donors and elected officials who do the same thing the progressive organizations do. To pretend otherwise is myopic.

  3. I did a more detailed version of who worked with who in the Dem-leaning 527s in The Colorado Statements in October 2010 (all of this was known before the November election.

    But when I tried to do the same for the Republicans, I quickly found out that their money primarily funneled through the 501c4s, such as Western Tradition, and they cloaked their money so well that it would take at least a year after the election to get even a little below the surface.

    The Post story made me crazy, and a little annoyed that it took them 17 months to do it.  

    1. From reading Karen Crummy’s article, you’d get the impression that Republicans only spent $28,000 campaigning in all of 2008 and 2010. The Post’s analysis was limited to mainly progressive organizations that are happy to disclose their donors by name.

      Where’s the similar analysis of GOP spending? Oh that’s right, buried deep inside the article was this little footnote:

      Contributors who want to shield their identities often funnel money through 501(c)4s. Nationally, these groups have been effectively utilized by the GOP, most prominently by George W. Bush strategist Karl Rove. Colorado Republicans also used these groups to put out fliers and ads in 2010 races.

      1. When I looked at this in October 2010, I was able to track several million dollars (just in 2010) for the Republican state House and Senate races, from the campaign finance reports they filed for the Senate Majority Fund, Senate Leadership Fund and the like.  

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