If you dig deep enough into his FEC reports, you’ll discover that Republican U.S. Senate candidate Duane Sand is running the biggest scam EVER in the history of North Dakota politics. Either that, or he’s the stupidest person ever to run for political office in North Dakota. Read on, and decide.
If you read the summary page in Duane Sand’s FEC report, which covers all his contributions and expenditures from the time he announced his 2012 candidacy for the U.S. Senate back in early 2011, through March 31 of this year, you’ll be pretty impressed. It shows that he has raised $676,391 in campaign funds. That’s a pretty tidy sum. Especially for someone who hasn’t even gotten his party’s nomination yet. If he spent all that money running television ads in his race against Rick Berg for the Republican nomination for the Senate, he’d run a pretty good race. He might even win.
Except that you probably won’t see any TV ads for Duane Sand between now and the June 12 North Dakota Primary Election. Because Duane Sand doesn’t have any money left for television ads. He spent it all already. No, not on TV advertising. He hasn’t done any of that. Not on newspaper or radio ads, either. In fact, I haven’t seen a single campaign ad for Duane Sand this year. Have you?
Duane Sand’s FEC report shows that, so far, in his 2012 campaign for the U.S. Senate, he has spent $594,498. And it also shows that, as of March 31, he had debts of $205,861. And those debts aren’t loans. They are unpaid bills. Added together, those numbers come to $800,346. That’s how much money Duane Sand has spent so far in his campaign for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate.
Hmmmm. So where’d it go? How’d he spend all that money? Well, he spent most of it . . . . drum roll . . . . raising money.
If you add up all the expenditures for fundraising by the Sand campaign, plus the unpaid bills to companies which did the fundraising for him, it comes to $705,114–about $29,000 more than he has actually raised.
That’s right, all the money Duane Sand has raised, plus $28,723 he hasn’t raised yet, has been spent on fundraising. Here’s how.
There are some basic things you do when you begin a political campaign for a federal office. You hire a campaign staff to run the campaign for you. You hire a media consultant to produce and place your paid media. You hire a “mail house” to help with fundraising.
Well, Duane pretty much skipped the first two. He’s run for office so many times that he just runs things himself. He doesn’t hire a media consultant because he doesn’t plan to do any media. He just hires a mail house. In this case (and in his aborted 2010 campaign, which we’ll discuss in a minute), he hires a team of Washington, D.C., companies who do direct mail fundraising for conservative candidates, and they start cranking out fundraising letters. And they never stop, at least until the campaign ends, at which time they pause until Duane starts his next campaign.
These aren’t just fundraising letters to North Dakota Republicans. These firms have lists of people nationwide, proven donors, who give money to conservative candidates. These firms design slick campaign brochures and write fiery fundraising letters designed to stir the blood of conservatives who give money to save the world from Liberals. And the lists are huge—millions of names. Big enough so that if only a couple percent of the recipients send a check, which is generally the case, the result is hundreds of thousands of dollars of contributions.
Well, Duane Sand hired a company called Base Connect, whose offices are at 1155 15th St. NW, Suite 410, in Washington, D.C. So far, he’s paid (or owes them) $90,484. That’s likely for managing Duane’s fundraising campaign and writing his letters. They hired their affiliate, Century Data Systems, whose address is also 1155 15th St. NW, Suite 410, Washington, D.C., to do the actual mailing. Duane paid (or owes) them $198,868, almost all of it for postage. Base Connect and Century Data get Duane’s mailing lists from a company called Legacy List Marketing, whose address is (you guessed it) 1155 15th St. NW, Suite 410, Washington, D.C. Duane paid (or owes) them $44,396.
In all, Duane has sent checks (or will send, if he scrapes up the money) totaling $345,556 to 1155 15th St. NW, Suite 410, Washington, DC 20005. As of March 31, he owed Base Connect $68,319, Century Data $18,168, and Legacy List Marketing $26,345.
In addition to management, and postage, and list rental, somebody has to actually print those hundreds of thousands of letters, address the envelopes, stuff the envelopes (that’s not done by a bunch of local volunteers sitting around their kitchen tables in Fargo, as is the case with most North Dakota campaigns) and deliver them to a post office. That’s done by a company called Consolidated Mailing Services, just down the road in Sterling, VA. Duane paid them (so far) $57,748. And as of March 31, he still owed them $73,448.96. That’s a total of a little over a hundred and thirty thousand.
And that’s how Duane Sand raises money. Total cost just to those four firms: almost half a million dollars in fundraising expenses.
If you go through Duane’s FEC report line by line, you’ll find another couple hundred thousand dollars of expenditures in printing, online fundraising, bank processing charges, additional list rentals, consulting and credit card processing. Total tab, a little over $700,000.
As of March 31, Duane had about $80,000 in the bank and debts of just over $200,000. His total expenditures for things other than fundraising come to less than $95,000. Consultants, a little polling, some reimbursement for Duane’s travel expenses, part-time secretarial staff, local event planning, office supplies, cell phones, and even rent for a small office in downtown Bismarck, rented from . . . another drum roll . . . Goldmark Realty, whose senior vice president is Rick Berg—Duane’s Primary Election opponent. Hmmm. Wonder if Duane checked carefully for “bugs.”
So if you sent Duane some money this year, hoping to help his campaign for the U.S. Senate, what you really did is help a bunch of companies in Washington D.C. make money. I was kind of curious about these people who sent Duane money, so I decided to check them out a little bit (You can look at the list of those who gave more than $200 by going to the FEC website, here, and finding Duane Sand. The FEC won’t let me link specific candidate pages.). I just grabbed a name at random, Robert Fisher, 727 S. Florida Ave., Deland, Florida, and called him. Robert sounded like a nice elderly gentleman, and after I told him who I was, he agreed to answer a couple questions. I told him I had found his name on Duane Sand’s contributor list as a $250 donor to Duane’s campaign, and asked him if he knew Duane. He said “No, but I guess he must be a conservative Republican, right?” I replied that he was, and Robert said he gets these letters in the mail, and he often sends small checks to conservative candidates. I then explained that Duane was spending pretty much all of his money on fundraising and not much on an actual campaign. There was a pause, and then Robert said “Well, I hope he raises enough.” Thank you, Robert. End of conversation.
I mentioned earlier Duane’s 2010 campaign. Wait, you say, Duane wasn’t on the ballot in 2010. Well, you’re right, he wasn’t. He thought about it for a while, though. Thought he might run for Kent Conrad’s seat in the U.S. Senate. Even formed a “Friends of Duane Sand 2010” Committee, and registered it with the Federal Election Commission in 2009. And started raising money, back in early 2009. Then 2010 came around and Kent Conrad decided to retire, and John Hoeven jumped in. That kind of dashed Duane’s hopes, but, of course, not before he had hired—you guessed it—Base Connect, and Century Data, and Legacy, and Consolidated. And gone out and raised $395,499 through direct mail. And spent $369,069 doing it. And spent a whopping $26,338 on things other than fundraising. And ran up a debt of $19,859 before he closed down his campaign early in 2010. Lots of Robert Fishers on that contributors’ list too. Whose money went to some slick Washington, D.C. “mail houses.”
Now, you might say that Duane should have learned something from that 2010 “campaign.” That he might have learned that hiring Washington, D.C. direct mail firms to raise money for you doesn’t do much for paying campaign expenses, other than to those firms, and doesn’t do much justice to those people who write checks to your campaign. If he didn’t learn that, then he is indeed just a stupid candidate. If he did, and then repeated it, on a much grander scale, in 2012, then he’s running a scam. And he probably ought to go to the pokey, instead of the Senate.
Oh, by the way, you can look at Base Connect’s website if you want a real look at how this business works. In their “brag section,” they disclose some of the successful fundraising efforts they’ve been involved in. Their poster girl is Sharon Angle. Remember her? She’s the ultra-conservative from Nevada who took on Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in 2010. Here’s what Base Connect brags about on their website: Base Connect, on Sharon Angle’s behalf, mailed 17,936,383 pieces of fundraising mail. That’s right, 17 million fundraising letters. Those seventeen million letters generated contributions of $17,249,264. Yep, 17 million dollars. For a political campaign. (But remember, she was running against Harry Reid, the Republican’s party’s second most hated man—behind Barack Obama.) The result was $6,034,935 into Sharon Angle’s campaign coffers. But Base Connect and its partners (okay, including a nice injection into the U.S. Postal Service coffers) pocketed $11,214,329 of contributors’ money. Ouch.
There are other examples on the Base Connect website. Deborah Honeycutt for Congress in Georgia: $5,130,000 raised, $1,344,000 to the candidate, $3,786,000 in expenses. Deborah lost, too, just like Sharon. William Russell, Congress, Pennsylvania, raised $3,250,000. The candidate got $841,000. Expenses of $2,409,000. William lost too.
Okay, maybe I’m just naïve. Maybe this is just the way it is done today. In the examples above, at least the candidates got SOME of the money that small contributors sent to their campaigns. In North Dakota, if Duane Sand can raise the $200,000 to pay off his bills without sending any more fundraising letters, he will have put about $95,000 out of $800,000—a little over ten per cent—into his actual campaign.
And the clock is ticking. In just a little over six weeks, he’s going to lose the primary election to Rick Berg. Who’s going to contribute to him then? How are Base Connect and its partners going to collect on their bills?
Oh, Duane is working at it. He’s brought in the number one sleazeball in America, Dick Morris, for fundraisers in St. Paul and Bismarck today. Dick has a personal invitation online for you–look here. If you’re quick, you could still buy tickets for tonight’s event in Bismarck by clicking here. You get supper for $40. But a good bit of your $40 will go to a company called Campaign Services Inc. for handling the online reservations—if there are any. So Duane won’t be pocketing much tonight. Hope he can at least cover Dick’s flight and hotel room.
Meanwhile, Duane continues to wrap himself in the flag (literally—look here) and pretend he’s actually running for the U.S. Senate. And running the greatest political campaign scam I’ve ever seen.