Sunday, January 25, 2009

Mayor Greg Ballard's 2008 Campaign Expenditures

On Thursday, the Indianapolis Star did an article on the Mayor's recently filed campaign report. Although it was barely mentioned in the article, there is one number in the report that stood out above all the others as being unusual: $435,622 spent in an off-year, three years before an election. Since there was $835,037 raised during the year, that means the campaign is spending more than half the money in a year where there is not even an election.

I decided to look at Governor Daniels' campaign finance report in 2005, which was also a year three years before his re-election effort. Governor Daniels's campaign spent $515,179 in 2005, and he's governor of all 92 counties, not just one. Although the Mayor' final report covering the last 2 1/2 months of 2007 is not on the Clerk's website, it appears that his campaign expenditures in 2008 are almost certainly more than double his expenditures in 2007, the year of the election.

Normally campaigns immediately scale down drastically after an election, employing a skeleton staff, if any, until a year or so before the next election. Mayor Ballard's appears to have geared up after winning. During my review of the report, I found about 10 staffers on the payroll during 2008 as well as several contractors. Many of those employees were paid $30,000 to $40,000. in expenditures listed as "payroll."

Tens of thousands of dollars were spent on travel, including airline tickets and charter bus service. $53,251 was paid to the Indiana Ballroom and $15,316 was paid to the Embassy Suites, $12,835 paid to Eagle Creek for a golf outing, and $922 to the Indiana Repertory Theatre. Additionally, tens of thousands of dollars were spent for flowers, cookies, and for dining out. While it may be argued that the Mayor was leveraging his position to raise money, the fact is that once in office, he did not need to have lavish events in order to raise money. When you are Mayor of the 13th largest city and you have millions of dollars to give out in government contracts, the money rolls in without having to put on huge, expensive events.

It should also be noted that "unitemized" expenditures, were $6,272.31 in the 2008 report, which is more than 10 times the "unitemized" expenditures noted on the last available 2007 report. While you are not required to itemize expenditure (or contributions) less than $100, the practice of most large campaigns is to itemize everything. For example, the 2005 Governor Daniels' finance report lists $0 for unitemized expenditures and contributions. That's a practice that the Mayor's campaign team should be employing. If not, you expose yourself to the political charge of covering up payments.

Hopefully Mayor Ballard has been advised that campaign funds must be related to a political purpose. While I assume that's the case, he does need better political advisers, who most certainly would have advised him of the importance of scaling down expenditures during the political off-season. In the weeks before the 2011 election, the Mayor may well look back on those off-year expenditures and wish he had the money back.

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