Things haven't been going well financially for would-be presidential candidate Newt Gingrich. First his think-tank declared bankruptcy. Then it was revealed that his campaign was so deeply in debt -- to the tune of $4.5 million dollars -- that it had had bounched a $500 check sent to the state of Utah to cover election filing fees. And now Politico reports that the campaign is so desperate for cash it's resorting to renting out its donor list for as much as $26,000 per use.
"Campaign insiders attribute the problems partly to Gingrich and his wife Callista," Politico's Kenneth Vogel and Ginger Gibson suggest snarkily, "asserting that the couple was unwilling to downgrade from private jets and security details even as the campaign floundered. Insiders say Callista Gingrich required an entourage of at least two staffers – including one who dressed in an elephant costume to promote her children’s book – and a contracted security guard who followed her even on non-campaign trips."
“They overspent to keep up the appearances of being a top-tier candidate,” a Gingrich consultant explained. “If you have a campaign bus and you’re flying in on a chartered jet, but you do not have the money for that, you end up sacrificing your ground game.”
If the Politico account it to be believed, the Gingrich campaign may be entering a death spiral. A campaign's donor list is its most valuable assets, and shopping it around risks turning off supporters or making them more likely to donate to other causes. Gingrich has also been loaning his campaign thousands of dollars to cover his own travel expenses at a time when his personal financial empire is in trouble as well.
Gingrich spokespeople and allies insist that the campaign has not overspent wildly compared to the other Republican candidates, and that it will be easy for Newt to put his own financial house in order after the campaign because his failed run has made him "even more of a national brand than he was before."
Politico, however, disputes this, pointing to Callista's insistence on maintaining her personal security detail, even after the campaign received Secret Service protection, and to the frequent use of a charter air service called Moby Dick Airways, which was paid "for the use of a Boeing 737 jet with a cabin capacity that far exceeded the press interest in flying Air Newt."
"There were many empty seats," the Politico writers explain, "even on flights during pivotal stretches of the campaign, like his post-loss trips from Iowa to New Hampshire and from New Hampshire to South Carolina. At one point, Gingrich’s traveling press corps balked when the campaign informed journalists that it would cost more than $2,000-per-seat to fly to a single event, and the media boycott forced the campaign to foot the bill for the entire cost of the flight."
"Gingrich’s aides are acutely sensitive to the perception that their boss is teetering on the edge of becoming a laughingstock," the article concludes. "They recount a two-hour-long meeting of his campaign staff last month at which 'the whole subject was rebuilding the brand' and 'keeping him from looking like a fool."
As it happens, the present writer received an email from the Gingrich campaign on Friday afternoon, addressed to "Dear Fellow Conservative" and begging, "As the last remaining conservative in this race, we urgently need your financial support today. Will you donate $25, $50, $100 or whatever you can afford?" It may be safe to assume that a Gingrich campaign which is reduced to soliciting Raw Story writers for donations is a campaign in trouble.
Photo by Adam Fagen via Flickr