Skip to comments.Welch keeps lid on U.S. account; state one gushes
Posted on 04/15/2004 7:54:16 AM PDT by WIViking
It sounds almost too good to be true.
State Sen. Bob Welch raised better than half a million dollars last year in his bid to challenge U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold this fall, yet his campaign paid staffers for its fund-raiser, Gateway Ventures, a mere $1,400 in 2003.
How could a campaign spend so little to raise so much? Welch's folks chalk it up to being stingy with their checkbook.
"We're as frugal with our (campaign) expenditures as Bob is with Wisconsinites' tax dollars," the Welch camp said in a statement issued earlier this year.
But look at Welch's state campaign account - which is supposed to be used only for helping him get elected to state offices - and you'll find something not mentioned in his press releases.
Gateway was paid $29,000 for financial consulting by Welch's state fund in late July, just four days after the Redgranite Republican formally announced that he would be running for the right to take on Feingold. Gateway received another $4,400 for expenses from the same state account the same month.
By January, Welch had drained his onetime six-figure state campaign fund down to a mere $28,000.
All of which prompts an obvious question:
Was Welch skirting election rules by using his state campaign dollars to pay the fund-raiser for his federal race - and then bragging about how he was holding down spending?
Not at all, says a key Welch adviser.
"Those two (campaign accounts) are completely separate," said John Hiller, treasurer for Welch's U.S. Senate run.
Hiller said the state payments to Gateway were for past consulting work for Welch's state fund. Also, he said, Welch's federal account recently paid the fund-raising firm $27,500 for work on his U.S. Senate campaign.
A Federal Election Commission spokesman declined to talk about Welch's particular case, saying no complaint has been filed on the matter. But he said it is generally improper for a candidate to use money from a state fund to aid his federal campaign.
Welch's state and federal filings also raise other, smaller issues, including:
His state campaign made a $1,000 contribution to his federal fund last August. The FEC spokesman pointed to the rule banning transfers from a candidate's non-federal account to his primary federal one, but he had no comment on Welch's move.
Welch's state fund paid his wife $6,500 last year for consulting and office management, a much higher fee than it had paid her in the past. Two months later, she donated $4,000 to her husband's federal campaign.
But those appear minor compared to the question about Welch's fund-raiser.
In an interview Wednesday, Hiller noted that Welch's state reports show the $33,000 payment to Gateway was for past fund-raising advice given his state campaign between September 2002 and June 2003, a period during which Welch's state fund raised a total of $67,000. That would mean 50 cents of every $1 raised went to the consultant.
Not a very frugal use of campaign funds.
What's more, it's unclear why Welch needed a state fund-raising consultant early last year when he had already made it clear by then that he would be running for Feingold's slot.
As for Welch's campaign for the U.S. Senate, there's no doubt that Gateway - led by Phil Prange, ex-Gov. Tommy Thompson's longtime bagman - was shaking the money trees for Welch throughout the second half of last year.
Welch, who lost his previous bid for a U.S. Senate seat in 1994, put out a press release in August announcing that he had hired Prange & Co. for this task. Plus, campaign records show that several conduits sent checks for Welch's federal campaign to Gateway's offices in Madison starting last fall.
But Welch's federal reports for last year show only the single payment of $1,387 to Dan Morse, who works with Prange, for "administrative/salary/overhead." The reports list no debts or obligations to Gateway in either its September or year-end reports.
Welch raised about $520,000 for the U.S Senate contest last year. The longtime state legislator is running against businessmen Russ Darrow and Tim Michels in the GOP primary in September.
Hiller said it's true that Gateway was hired by Welch early on to help vacuum up campaign dough, but he declined to discuss details of that contract. He did say it was a performance-based contract, meaning Gateway gets paid when it meets certain goals.
A federal filing expected to be made public today, Hiller said, will show that Welch paid $27,500 to Gateway in two payments during the first three months of this year.
As for the payments to the consultant from the state account last year, Hiller said he could not say much about those since he was not involved in Welch's state campaign. But he said he knew for certain that Welch wasn't guilty of mixing his campaign pots.
"No, not at all," Hiller said.
Even if it all sounds almost too good to be true.
Send a veteran & businessman up against Feingold!
Russ Darrow for US Senate--Send a true businessman and the candidate who can (and WILL) win.
Have you HEARD all three of them speak? Darrow is the least likely of the three of them to beat Feingold.
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