Now that former HP CEO Carly Fiorina has clawed her way up into the top tier of GOP primary candidates, the press has gone into high gear in terms of digging into her past and seeing what skeletons might be found in her closet. This week the Washington Post has has been examining the financial reports from her unsuccessful 2010 California Senate bid and turned up what will no doubt come as troubling news. The famous businesswoman is renowned for handling and managing wealth, but when it came time to pay the bills racked up on the campaign trail some of the checks allegedly were not in the mail.
Famed California pollster Joe Shumate was found dead in his home one month before Election Day 2010, surrounded by sheets of polling data he labored over for the flailing Senate bid of Carly Fiorina.
Upon his death, Fiorina praised Shumate as “the heart and soul” of her team. She issued a news release praising him as a person who believed in “investing in those he worked with” and offering her “sincerest condolences” to his widow.
But records show there was something that Fiorina did not offer his widow: Shumate’s last paycheck, for at least $30,000. It was one of more than 30 invoices, totaling about $500,000, that the multimillionaire didn’t settle — even as Fiorina reimbursed herself nearly $1.3 million she lent the campaign. She finally cleared most of the balance in January, a few months before announcing her run for president.
Shumate was only one of a number of people owed money in this report. Fiorina’s own campaign manager went on record saying that he would “occasionally” call her saying that she really needed to settle up on her bills, but “she just wouldn’t.”
The piece paints a story of a campaign which was flushing large amounts of donor money into gauzy television advertisements which didn’t do much to budge people away from supporting Barbara Boxer and spending lavishly on well heeled events. Meanwhile, the people waiting to get paid – sometimes for four years – were the construction crews building stages for events, clerks mailing out campaign material and small firms conducting polls for her. One small local firm is still waiting to be paid $9,000.00 for printing 21,290 mailers and sending them out. (To be fair and accurate, the Fiorina campaign paid them for the postage promptly, but the rest of the bill still awaits remittance.) All of those unpaid bills are highlighted in stark contrast to the more than one million dollars she reimbursed herself for campaign expenses.
Fiorina’s team didn’t respond to the Washington Post when asked to comment on the story but I reached out to Sarah Isgur Flores of Carly’s campaign staff this morning and received the following response.
It’s interesting that the Washington Post—to my knowledge—never ran a similar front page headline about Hillary. Hillary, a multi, multi-millionaire, held $20 million in campaign debt for over 4 years. That’s roughly 40 times the amount the 2010 senate campaign had—but the Washington Post barely mentions it. And let’s not forget this is the same media organization that was widely mocked after trying to claim Carly wasn’t a secretary while noting she had been a full time secretary after college. It’s becoming obvious that the Left and their allies in the media are terrified of Carly because she is everything Hillary isn’t—a candidate from outside the political class whose authenticity and grasp of the issues connects with voters because she has the track record to challenge the status quo.
It’s a fair point when you consider that candidates across the country frequently leave a trail of unpaid debts behind them and that both the RNC and the DNC have found themselves in debt to the tune of millions at various times. But at the same time, it doesn’t exactly defuse the main allegation in the story.
The reason stories like this tend to resonate in political campaigns is that we’re not talking about tens of millions of dollars swirling around in a corporate bankruptcy. Campaign expenses tend to pile up with small, local businesses. (Frequently ones which are known to the two parties and frequently are big boosters for candidates.) If you don’t pay up a ten thousand dollar tab to some small mom and pop shop you can really put them between a rock and a hard place. Those interviews generate a lot more sympathy from Joe Public voters than hearing that General Electric was asking for a corporate bailout.
This isn’t one of those end-of-the-world scandal stories which brings a campaign down overnight. The fact is that campaigns are both expensive and difficult to manage, and first time hopefuls often wind up with some unpaid bills and overlooked details. But at the same time, we need to remember that Fiorina is running for president as a complete political outsider. She’s basing her case almost entirely on her experience in the corporate world and her ability to manage a massive, international business. Part of that profile is the ability to meet your fiscal responsibilities, and a trail of unpaid bills is the sort of thing that her primary opponents (as well as the Democrat if she earns the nomination) are going to jump on.