Losing candidate asks supporters for thousands to pay young staffers

Losing candidate asks supporters for thousands to pay young staffers (11-22-12)

BOZEMAN, Mont. - The polls have long since closed, the votes have been counted and almost all of Montana's major races have been called. But two weeks after Election Day, some things still linger -- like leftover campaign signs, and for some candidates, leftover campaign debt.

Montana State University political expert David Parker says ending a campaign owing big bucks isn't ideal, but it's far from unusual. He points to Ohio Senator John Glenn, who ran for president in 1984. Glenn acquired millions in debt, which he carried for 20 years.

"Finally the FEC gave him a dispensation, saying, 'We're just going to wipe the debt clean,'" Parker said.

We won't know the extent of most campaigns' debts until they file their next disclosure reports on December 6. But we do know that at least one candidate in a major Montana race did owe money two days after the polls closed. That's when failed U.S. House candidate Kim Gillan sent an email to her supporters, asking for donations to help pay her young staffers.

"I think, very simply, they stopped paying their staff so they could do a bit more advertising, in the hopes that  they would win and then they could go back and get the money afterwards," Parker said. "Obviously, that didn't work; it didn't happen. So now what she wants to do is go back and pay these staff members who really did a lot of work probably, and took a risk in their careers to help out Kim Gillan. This happens a lot."

Four days later, Gillan sent another email, saying she was more than $6,000 away from making payroll.

"The problem that Kim Gillan faces is -- who wants to give to a candidate that has lost," Parker said.

But when I called Gillan on Wednesday, she told me that since sending those emails she has raised the thousands of dollars necessary to pay off her debt. Political experts like Parker say that is unusual for a relatively low-profile, losing candidate.

"My reputation is of someone who likes to dot the 'i's' and cross the 't's' Gillan said. "So I'm very comfortable that we'll be meeting all of our obligations."

Congressman-elect Steve Daines wasn't available for an interview, but his campaign manager says they are debt-free. In fact, Parker speculates that the Daines campaign still has money in the bank -- seed funds for the next election.

"Either running for the House again, or tantalizingly, running for the Senate against Max Baucus in 2014," he said.

The last time that candidates had to file financial disclosure reports with the FEC was October 25. Next month, we'll know much more about the campaign finances of Gillan and Daines, as well as U.S. Senate candidates Jon Tester and Denny Rehberg.


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