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INVESTIGATION: Wehby Sends Majority of Campaign Cash to Calif. and DC Firms

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

 

Monica Wehby, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, has spent nearly 72 percent of her campaign funds with businesses outside of Oregon, according to an analysis by GoLocalPDX.

Federal Election Commission records show Wehby has spent $1,067,257 of her $1,491,936 in campaign funds with businesses outside of Oregon, according to GoLocalPDX’s ongoing investigation into campaign funds.

Last week GoLocalPDX revealed that incumbent U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley spent 78 percent of his campaign funds outside the state.

Of the money the Wehby campaign spent out of state, 54 percent went to firms based in Sacramento, Calif., and Arlington, Va.

For some local business people, that’s enough to clinch their decision about a candidate.

“If you campaign here and don’t spend your money here, I’m not going to vote for you,” said Jodi Krohn, president of Premier Press in Portland, a local business that sees little in-state campaign work.

Wehby’s Small Business Agenda

Wehby has said in her campaign she will handle things differently than Democratic incumbent Jeff Merkley by making sure small businesses in Oregon will thrive and bureaucracy will not.

“Day after day I see policies coming from Washington (D.C.) that are hurting small business and costing us jobs,” Wehby said in a recent campaign ad. “We need to eliminate burdensome regulations, lower taxes, cut the debt and replace Obamacare.”

Yet, like her opponent Jeff Merkley, a majority of Wehby’s campaign funds do not get spent with local businesses. Merkley spent almost 80 percent of his campaign funds on printers, copywriters, designers and consultants outside of the Beaver State. Yet one of Merkley’s campaign planks is to stop the outsourcing of jobs.

When asked why Wehby’s campaign chose so many out-of-state consultants, Wehby campaign manager Dean Petrone said “we have no comment on that.”

Firms in Sacramento and Arlington get the lion’s share

Wehby’s major in-state expenses were divided up between catering services, office expenses, campaign management and fundraising expenses, car rentals, gas, phone and Internet expenses, taxes, meals and lodging.

The Wehby campaign’s largest expense was $575,288 spent with Strategic Media Services in Arlington, Va., for the purchase of TV and radio ad time. The company specializes in planning and placement services for media, with a section devoted to political research for clients nationally and inside the D.C. Beltway.

Ultimately, much of that money goes to local TV and radio stations in Oregon. But the percentage of the money that Strategic Media Service keeps for ad-buying services is unclear, as the company declined to comment on its clients when asked by GoLocalPDX.

Firms in Sacramento received $167,641 in Wehby campaign cash. EFundrasing Connections got $25,880 to handle credit-card processing fees. Meridian Pacific Inc. was paid $113,322 for consulting work and Political Finance Solutions earned $28,439 for bookkeeping, according to elections commission data.

Meridian Pacific Inc., Wehby’s largest consulting contractor, used the money to provide a number of services outside of general consulting. Those services include the design of bumper stickers, brochures, banners, logos, campaign t-shirts and websites. The company also printed brochures, campaign mailers and letterhead and palm cards (used in presentations).

Meridian Pacific Inc., has worked on many big-name campaigns in the past, including those of John McCain for president, Gov. Linda Lingle (R-Hawaii), Gov. Dave Heineman (R-Nebraska), U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Nebraska), and U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-Illinois).

The Wehby campaign also spent $12,500 with Acquire Digital in Nashville, Tenn., for media design and consulting and $124,220 with Voyageur Company of St. Paul, Minn., for direct-mail fundraising.

Local services available

Anvil Media web designers in Portland represented Wehby’s single largest local contract. The company billed for services totaling $29,993. Anvil has a number of high-profile clients including the Portland Trail Blazers, Oregon State University, and the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel in Hollywood, Fla.

However, there are political consulting firms, media buyers and print shops in Oregon that said they’d like a chance at the work if it was offered.

Jodi Krohn’s printing company, Premiere Press, is one of the largest of its kind in the Northwest, but only sees a small amount of campaign work.

For Krohn, sending business out of state shows a lack of consideration for environmental sustainability, given the extra shipping, and lack of commitment to the community. Krohn would like to see more local political contracts in her state and with her business.

“We would do [campaign work] if it came in the door,” Krohn said. “Capability is not an issue.”

Rebecca Tweed, a political consultant based in Lake Oswego, has worked with state representatives, judges, city councilors and mayors. She said she’d love to take on larger campaigns if the work were available.

“If the circumstances were right, I would be able to work on a congressional campaign and would be eager to do so,” Tweed said.

Out-of-state consultants and business as usual

Dr. Jim Moore, who teaches politics at Pacific University, said spending money on consultants outside of Oregon is typical for large campaigns.

Firms in California and Washington D.C. often have more experience than local ones and national political parties guide candidates toward firms they have worked with in the past, Moore said.

But it’s not inconceivable for a candidate to contract with a local firm if they are willing to push back against party bosses, Moore said.

“However, a candidate has to be strong enough to stand up and say, ‘I’m from Oregon and that’s not going to fly,’” Moore said. “It’s up to a campaign manager to balance [in- and out-of-state hiring] so they can be happy with their message.”

Len Bergstein owns Northwest Strategies, a public relations and consulting firm in Portland.

He said Oregon has lots of companies that could be tapped for campaign work if candidates only chose to shop locally.

“There are a lot of firms that are capable and a number of people who are very good and talented,” Bergstein said.

Tweed said candidates are actually better off going to local consultants because they can provide easier access and a clearer understanding of Oregon’s demographics.

“I think the preference is to always work with someone in-state that understand the lay of the land and understands how different Oregon voters are from other places,” Tweed said.

 

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