Friday, May 12, 2006

Burdick Campaign: Lame Excuses, Desperate Times

For the last couple of days I've been waiting to get a call back from Burdick campaign manager Ed Grosswiler to ask about Ginny's recent expenditures that caused the City's matching funds provision to kick in, upping what "clean candidate" Erik Sten can spend by almost $32 thousand. After reading this piece written up by OPB's Colin Fogarty, I gave him another call.

Much of the article relies on information from Janice Thompson at Oregon Follow The Money, but Fogarty snags a choice quote from Burdick:
He is taking public money, but his challenger, state Senator Ginny Burdick, is not. She's spending $31,000 more than the original $150,000 Sten received. So he gets that much too, much to Burdick's dismay.

Ginny Burdick: "If I raise more money, he gets more money. He doesn't have to take it. But he has elected to take it. So as a challenger I am operating with one hand tied behind my back because he has all this taxpayer money and so this enhances his advantage that he already has as an incumbent...This system should have gone to a vote of the people. These warts and flaws would have been uncovered".

Gary Blackmer: "Just because a bank gets robbed doesn't mean that we close the banks."
(I just had to include the riposte by Blackmer in the excerpt). Let's take a second and analyze her position here. She's doing fine in sentence one, perfectly articulating the principle behind matching funds--a public financing candidate won't be put at a money disadvantage by a well-funded non-participator.

Burdick also states the facts pretty cleanly in sentences two and three, but she leaves out a tiny little detail: SHE doesn't have to take the money she's offered, either. And SHE elected to take it anyway. Who's twisting Ginny's arm to collect an extra $13,000 over Sten's limit? And more pointedly, who forced her to SPEND almost $32K more than Sten? That's quite a bit of nerve to feign passivity, when you're outspending your contributions by over 20 grand.

Moving on: Burdick claims she's operating "with one hand tied behind my back because he has all this taxpayer money." That's another strange statement, because it's the opposite of the truth. If you want to talk about someone campaigning with a hand tied behind his back, that's Dan Saltzman, who is voluntarily holding down his spending (although he did trigger about $10K in matching fund overages today, which Amanda Fritz will not take advantage of*...also an example of keeping one hand behind your back). But Burdick isn't keeping her hands tied at all; she's happily spending away.

Her last statement is my favorite, though. "This enhances the advantage he has as an incumbent." I'm left to wonder, how? Certainly Sten has incumbent advantages; he has high press visibility, great name recognition (for better or worse), the power of office to introduce policy as campaign promises, etc. And if he were behaving like most other incumbents, he WOULD have an enhanced advantage by being able to raise more money than his challengers.

But if there's one area where he clearly does NOT have the advantage in his race against Burdick, it's money. How do we know? Because by law, he can't HAVE an advantage in his situation, given that Burdick has spent over his 150K limit. And every dollar he spends over 150K, was only made available by Burdick exercising her option to spend that much. At the very most, he can only hope to match whatever she spends--meaning they would spend an EQUAL amount. Do we really want someone on Council whose grasp of math leads her to conclude that $X > $X?

I tried to get some explanation from Grosswiler on this concept of enhanced advantage via funding equality, but didn't get very far. I asked why Burdick thinks she has a hand tied behind her back, and he said "Because Sten has the advantage of incumbency." I asked why he had that advantage, and he replied "Because he gets taxpayer money for his campaign!" Whatever else, the Burdick campaign certainly has the advantage when it comes to blustery tautology. Before I could follow up, Grosswiller said in a desperate hurry to get off the phone, "ThanksIgottagowe'reinthelastminuteshereclick." I'm sure he didn't mean the last minutes of his client's candidacy, but frankly I don't think she should pack her bags for the runoff. The Trib's Phil Stanford doesn't think so either, although his rationale is mostly based on a fervent desire for Dave Lister to be Sten's runoff buddy...and why not, seeing as how Trib publisher Robert Pamplin has kicked in $250 for Lister's candidacy. (Stanford actually doesn't think Dave will make it, since he believes there won't even be a runoff, but if there is one it won't be with Burdick, in his view.) So as we go into the final weekend before the primary ends, what Ginny Burdick really wants us to know about her candidacy and vision for the City is that Erik Sten is a fundraising bully. And can she have your vote?


*confirmed with her office...