Margolies seems to be losing fund-raising race

Marjorie Margolies can't tap her general election funds.
Marjorie Margolies can't tap her general election funds.
Posted: April 20, 2014

It turns out a visit from Bill Clinton isn't the only thing Marjorie Margolies needs to complete her political comeback. More money would help, too - a lot more.

Campaign finance reports released this week show that Margolies, widely viewed as the front-runner to reclaim the congressional seat she lost two decades ago, was limping into the final stretch.

While most of her 13th District rivals boasted hundreds of thousands of dollars stored up by early March, Margolies had barely $5,000 left to spend on her campaign before the May 20 primary, according to reports she filed with the Federal Election Commission.

"I don't think Marjorie can do anything for the next couple of weeks. How's she going to pay staff? How's she going to pay rent? How's she going to buy postage?" said Dan Fee, a Democratic political consultant who is not affiliated with the race to replace Allyson Y. Schwartz in a district covering parts of Philadelphia and Montgomery County.

Margolies' campaign had an additional $155,000 on hand, but it was designated for the general election, the reports show. Under federal law, candidates cannot spend or borrow general-election funds before the primary is over.

Ken Smukler, a senior adviser to Margolies' campaign, said the checks from the April 9 Clinton fund-raiser in Philadelphia were already flowing in when the quarterly report closed.

Margolies has about $150,000 available for the primary, he said.

Margolies helped seal Clinton's presidential legacy by casting the deciding vote for his 1993 budget. Her son, Marc Mezvinsky, married Chelsea Clinton in 2010.

Those ties, and the endorsement of several Philadelphia and Montgomery County political insiders, helped Margolies raise nearly $845,000 since May. But for the last two quarters, she spent more than she raised - and she spent most of it in the office.

In the first three months of 2014, more than 77 percent of Margolies' expenses went to consultants and pollsters. Smukler, for example, has received $199,000 since June for media outreach, research, and general consulting.

Fee said that in a campaign of this size, candidates usually try to keep administrative costs to about 20 percent, and save the bulk of their cash for advertising.

"I would be shocked if [her campaign] can point to a single example of a nonincumbent winning when other people spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on TV and they spend none," he said.

Smukler said Margolies' campaign wasn't worried.

"When they are on TV, we will be on TV," Smukler said. "And we will be on at levels that are as significant in this market as they are."

Lara Brown, associate professor at the graduate school of political management at George Washington University, said Margolies' spending patterns could turn off some donors.

"A burn rate like that starts to raise questions in donors' minds about why they should give you money," Brown said. "The first question that comes to mind is, how serious is this campaign? Does she really want to win, or does she simply want to essentially have her name out there again?"

Two of Margolies' opponents - physician Valerie Arkoosh and State Sen. Daylin Leach - have raised more than $1 million each and have more than $550,000 left to spend in the next month.

Both Arkoosh and Leach have reserved more than $400,000 worth of TV time in the two weeks before the primary. Margolies has not reserved any airtime, and would need a significant infusion of cash to do so.

State Rep. Brendan Boyle, running fourth in fund-raising, had $320,000 cash to spend on the primary in the first quarter. Boyle's fund-raising totals also appeared rosier on the surface than they were.

Nearly 15 percent of Boyle's total fund-raising came from in-kind donations, mostly from his staff and interns.

Boyle, his strategists, and his interns spent more than $11,350 in mileage over the last six months, and logged it all as in-kind contributions.

Adam Erickson, a spokesman for Boyle's campaign, said that was for transparency.

"We don't have a campaign car, for example. Brendan has used his own car and put a ton of miles on it for the campaign. Therefore, our compliance officer told us we need to list it as an in-kind contribution from the candidate," Erickson said in an e-mail.

No other candidates have listed a significant number of in-kind contributions, from themselves or others.


jparks@philly.com610-313-8117 @JS_Parks www.inquirer.com/MontcoMemo

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