DSCC - Nashua Telegraph: Ayotte Artificially Cranked Up 3Q Numbers

Nashua Telegraph Column: Donors stuffing Ayotte’s coffers, but that’s it

Kevin Landrigan

October 25, 2009


Republican Senate frontrunner Kelly Ayotte did have an impressive first quarter of fundraising.

But there’s more to the numbers than simply the $613,111 she raised, which was nearly $30,000 more than Democratic Congressman Paul Hodes.

For a rookie candidate for any political office, she employed a pretty tried-and-true way to artificially crank up those numbers.

She maxed out to donors; James Pindell, with the New Hampshire Political Report, pointed out nearly 15 percent of her money – almost $100,000 – was given for the general election.

The Sunday Telegraph did its own digging, and it found that slightly under $200,000 given to Ayotte in her first go-round is great, but can’t be repeated.

That’s how many gave her the maximum amount she could receive for this primary.

Individuals can give only $2,400 for a primary and then can give $2,400 for a general election if the candidate gets that far.

The same goes for political action committees, which can give $10,000 – but only half of that each for the primary and the rest for a fall runoff.

Among the PACS that maxed out – and then some – to Ayotte with $10,000 apiece were those run by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman John Cornyn, R-Texas; and Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn; a two-time presidential candidate.

She also lapped up big checks from PACs controlled by 2008 presidential nominee, John McCain, $5,000; Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby, $5,000; retiring Missouri Sen. Kit Bond, $5,000; Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, $5,000; North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr, $5,000; former South Dakota Sen. John Thune, $5,000; Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson, $2,500; Nebraska Sen. Mike Johanns, $2,000; ex-Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, $1,000; and ex-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, $1,000.

Ayotte spokesman Brooks Kochvar said this is common practice and claimed Hodes probably employed the same device to a similar extent.

“You are always raising money not only for the primary, but for the general election, because there’s so little time once the first race is over to raise money for the second,’’ Kochvar said.

Incredibly, the Ayotte campaign in New Hampshire was forced to admit on Friday that it didn’t have the latest Hodes report because the U.S. Senate candidates and incumbents don’t have to file electronically with the Federal Election Commission. At least a few media outlets, including this one, managed to get their hands on the Hodes numbers. He has raised three times as much money from PACs as Ayotte has since the race began, and the Ayotte campaign is right in alleging that far more of the Hodes money in the latest quarter came from outside the state – New York, Connecticut, Virginia and Washington, D.C., being hotbeds – than Ayotte had brought in.

More numbers

Memo from Ayotte to her former boss, ex-Gov. Craig Benson:

Thanks for the Rolodex!

There was barely a member of the extended Benson-allied family (read campaign $$$) whom Ayotte missed in her maiden fundraising voyage.

Craig and Denise Benson kicked in $4,800 apiece, but that’s only the beginning, as other longtime Benson devotees on board with Ayotte include ex-Benson aide Stephen Yianakopolus and his wife, $9,600; Cabletron co-founder Robert and Tara Levine, $7,200; former Benson anti-income-tax ally Robert Monaco, $2,400; Benson’s Health and Human Services commissioner, Nick Vailas, $2,000; ex-Benson Environmental Services Commissioner Mike Nolin, $1,000; and ex-Benson Cabletron executive and lead office volunteer Ray Marshall, $1,000.

In short, Ayotte will have great difficulty trying to hang on to the outside mantle when she got other big checks from the likes of former Gov. Steve and Heather Merrill, $9,600; ex-GOP State Chairman Steve Duprey, $4,800; New Hampshire International Speedway founder Robert Bahre, $4,800; ex-Congressman Chuck Douglas, $1,000; House Deputy Republican Leader David Hess, $1,000; former Congressman Bill Zeliff, $1,000; former Senate President and lobbyist Bill Bartlett, $1,000; Deputy Labor Commissioner David Wihby, $500; and the wife of ex-U.S. Sen. Gordon Humphrey, $500.

On the bigger stage, Ayotte managed to attract some big names, including partners in the lobbying firm of former Senate Republican Whip Donald Nickles, $4,000; longtime GOP national operative and Bush insider Charles Black, $1,000; and gas energy convert R.H. Pickens, of Houston, $1,000.

Then there are the brother, Cyrus, $2,000, and mother, Catherine, $1,000, of the man Ayotte wants to replace, retiring U.S. Sen. Judd Gregg.