It’s the dirty little secret of running for political office — how to pay down the campaign debt when the personal cookie jar runneth empty?Jay Fawcett has a dilemma.
Sure, he could forego the cool $50,000 that he lent himself during his quixotic congressional race in one of the nation’s reddest districts — Colorado’s fifth, home of Focus on the Family, Ted Haggard and five military bases. But it wasn’t exactly pocket change for the Fawcetts.
The money came from a retirement nest egg he and his wife, Susan, scraped together during a 21-year military career and later work as a defense contractor. He could also go out hat-in-hand asking supporters of his 2006 campaign to help him out, once again.
Fawcett, dubbed a “Fightin’ Dem” by the progressive netroots that eagerly followed his race, took both the high road and the hard road.
Today, he took the first step by launching an eight-week fund raising drive to replace the loans made from his personal retirement account.
It’s not an easy message to deliver.
“If you want people to step forward to run, you have to be willing to support them with funding, or find a millionaire in each district,” said Fawcett.
According to Fawcett, he was advised by political insiders to expect to pony up 10 percent of his own savings into the campaign.
In his case, that meant loans amounting to $78,725 as reported in a FEC audit conducted last month. Overall, the campaign raised $680,584 and had a little more than seven grand left in the bank.
“I expected the DCCC [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee] to be excited about a candidate running in a race where the party had never been competitive,” Fawcett explained. “They said nice things, but didn’t help much. Basically, [former DCCC chairman] Rahm Emanuel’s take on the fifty state strategy of Gov Dean was: great idea, I’m targeting 18 seats to get the 15 I need to take over the House.
“Susan and I felt that even with the training programs we attended we were inventing the campaign as we went. This makes it tough to get candidates to step forward and be willing to run two or three times before a win. The Republicans have a strategy here and we do not, so they tend to have a bench and we don’t.
People won’t run if they see a bottomless pit for money including their own assets.”
Fawcett was quick to note that all of the other creditors have been paid.
Holding debt retirement parties and fund raising pitches is hardly unique in any campaign — let alone federal races where money fever increases exponentially each year.
John Kerry’s failed bid for the presidency in 2004 left him with a $4.7 million debt. But, let’s face it, for a man of his enormous wealth that’s lunch money.
Fawcett’s then opponent and now Rep. Doug Lamborn, also a man of relatively modest means as politicians go, carried $104,157 in debt according to FEC records through the end of last year.
When asked if candidates bear a responsibility in making sure the campaign books are balanced, Fawcett responded.
“My view of candidate responsibilities is the same as being a squadron commander: I’m responsible for my own campaign. I worked hard to make sure I went hard for the win while balancing fiscal reality. I was close enough to cover the vendors and payroll, not close enough to pay back my personal loans and expenditures.”
Already this afternoon, Fawcett raised $1,110 from four donors. It beats holding a bake sale.