Quietly taking place over the last 9 months is a strange political phenomenon. Denny Rehberg is spending almost every dollar he raises.
He filed for reelection long ago, and had about $700K in the bank leftover from his previous campaign. Since then, has raised $816k and spent $706k. Worse, in the last calendar year, he's spent virtually every nickel that he has raised. For example, his quarterly FEC report, filed last week, shows that in the last quarter he raised 153K and spent 160K. That pattern extends back through the last several quarters. The expenditures are highly gratuitous--huge payments to consultants and operatives and media firms and mail houses and research firms--totally out of line with normal campaign expenditures you'd expect at this point in a campaign, showing absolutely no effort whatsoever to conserve funds.
A new candidate with great fundraising prowess but a poor understanding of how to manage a campaign's finances might engage in careless spending like this. In fact John McCain was bankrupt in late 2007 because he had pissed away money on staff and consultants unnecessarily. It happens. But Rehberg is a veteran campaigner and has not done anything like this before.
It is even more peculiar when you consider that Rehberg is the presumptive challenger to Tester in 2012, and every nickel he can save in this year's race can, under federal law, be carried over to a Senate campaign. Since he probably won't have to spend much against Gopher, McDonald or Gernant, (neither of which has any money in the bank), he would be saving every penny so he could start out against Tester with a giant war-chest.
So why would he be burning through money like he is, with crazy line-items, paying $6K a month to his campaign manager (to a kid who'd probably do it for 2K), $4 grand a month to a media consultant, $6.5K a month to Erik Iverson's consulting firm, IS LLC, and tens of thousands in charges at resorts in Las Vegas and Big Sky and lots of other things like that?
One explanation: He is going to run for Governor.
Under this theory, everything makes perfect sense. He cannot carry over money from a federal campaign to a state campaign. So, rather than hoard money that will not be usable in his next campaign, he's doing a shady, borderline-illegal, but clever thing: overpaying people, his consultants, his campaign staff, firms, etc., essentially using federal money to pre-pay for what he will need when he runs for Governor.
All these people will give him a heavily discounted rate (wink) for their services in 2012, because they will have been previously and handsomely compensated. Heck, they might even work for free (wink) because they like him so much.
And remember, too, that a Gubernatorial candidate can only raise money in $600 increments (per-donor contribution limit), whereas a Congressional candidate can raise in $2300 increments. so to be able to off-load expenses with easy-to-come-by federal campaign cash is a luxury. And yes, it's easy to come by. As we all know, when you are an incumbent Congressman, special interests in DC write you checks even if you don't ask for them. You don't raise money--you simply collect.
So I'm putting down a bet at Ladbrokes. R nominee in 2012 for Gov is Denny Rehberg.