Out-of-state contributors will be tapped to help retire U.S. Sen. Larry Craig’s $168,000 campaign debt.
“People in Idaho were so supportive and gave in record numbers,” said Mike Reynoldson, Craig’s 1996 campaign manager. “I think we will focus on people outside the state.”
That already is happening. People described as friends hosted a fund-raiser in Washington, D.C., and invited political action committees. A fund-raiser also was held in Texas in January involving a national building contractors convention, added Reynoldson, whose $7,000 campaign bonus is among Craig’s debts.
Those fund-raisers helped pare the debt from the $181,000 reported in the Dec. 31, 1996, campaign expenditure report, to about $168,000, he said.
The emphasis on raising out-of-state money raises red flags among campaign-finance watchdogs.
“Part of the problem here is that when they are looking to clean up a debt, they are more apt to raise money from groups that have an interest before the committees they are on,” said Paul Hendrie, spokesman for the Center for Responsive Politics. “There’s real potential for at least the appearance of a conflict of interest.”
Raising money out-of-state also means “he ends up owing something to people other than his own constituents, which isn’t necessarily a healthy thing,” Hendrie said.
Craig spent $2.7 million to resoundingly defeat Boise businessman Walt Minnick. Minnick spent $2.1 million. The race was the second most expensive senate campaign in Idaho’s history.
In addition to Reynoldson, the campaign owes fund-raiser Al Henderson of Boise $39,400 and is in debt to East Coast advertising and political consulting firms for $113,000.
Initial reports of Craig’s campaign finances cited a handful of problems, including businesses that appeared to have been dropped as debtors without being paid - a sign of possible illegal campaign contributions.
However, those businesses were paid. The confusion was created over how the expenditures were reported, the Craig campaign said. An amended report will be filed late this week to clarify the issue, Reynoldson said.
One of the businesses - shirt supplier Initial Response of Boise - confirms receiving payment from the campaign. “I was paid within 30 days,” said Scott Ridgeway, who owns the business.
“Anything I’ve ever sold to Sen. Craig was paid for promptly.”
Some are surprised that Craig, who has championed a balanced budget amendment for most of his political life, would run a campaign into the red.
It is the first time since he first ran for national office in 1980 that he has gone into debt, Reynoldson said. The high price of competitive politics also is to blame.
“Our opponent was so visible on television and spent so much money, especially on television advertising, the we felt we had to come as close as possible to match him,” Reynoldson.
“We had to spend as much as we needed to win,” he said. “Had we lost and not spent enough, that would have been a bad situation.”
Hendrie, of the Center for Responsive Politics, doesn’t think this problem is so unusual. “It seems to be a symptom of the frenzy to raise as much money as possible,”he said, “and spend as much money as possible.”
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: CRAIG DEBTS Sen. Larry Craig owes money to the following people from his 1996 campaign: Al Henderson of Boise, campaign fundraiser, $39,400. Elgin, Syfred, Drake of Boise, advertising agency, $8,462. First Security Bank of Salt Lake City, credit card debt for travel, meetings, $11,226. Mike Reynoldson of Boise, campaign director’s bonus for winning, $7,000. National Republican Senatorial Committee of Washington, D.C., for expenses for campaignseason visit from U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson, R-Texas, $2,480. Sandler Innocenzi of Alexandria, Va., television and radio commercial production, $86,964. Tony Payton and Assoc., of Arlington, Va., political consulting, $26,093.
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