Friday, January 22, 2010

For the Love of Money: Brizzi, Kennedy, Curry, & Orentlicher Burn Rate Roundup

Before anybody else goes nuts, yes, I am a “fan” of Republican Marion County Prosecutor candidate Helen Marchal on Facebook. But understand that while I know and like her, I will employ every decent means at my disposal to ensure the Democratic Party recaptures the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office in 2010. I only started becoming a “fan” of Republican office holders when I realized that some, specifically Carl Brizzi, would only communicate by Facebook. If anybody construes my fandom to mean anything else than me trying to keep an eye on the sneaky little (expletive), they have a disingenuous agenda.

But while I’m speaking of Brizzi…

After review of Carlito's year-end campaign campaign finance report, I'm convinced he must have really thought he was going somewhere else. Otherwise, I can’t account for what has got to be an unprecedented non-election year burn rate. In 2009, Brizzi raised $138,573, but he spent $124,291 without making a single media-related or strategic (polling/message consultants) purchase, meaning his income to expense ratio was 1.1. For comparison, Democratic Prosecutor candidates Terry Curry and David Orentlicher had rate of 3.0, and 410 respectively. No, that’s not a typo. David O. raised $184,000 by spending $484, from which I can only conclude that he writes some very persuasive postcards.

Democratic mayoral hopefuls Melina Kennedy’s and Brian Williams have rates of 7.8 and 3.3 respectively. Mayor Greg Ballard posted a solid fundraising year of $830,000 earned, but he spent $377,000 to do it, for only a 2.2 rate.

Burn rates tend to be consistent even when the scale of a campaign changes. For example, Marion County Clerk Beth White spent $3,000 to raise $12,000, for a 4.0 rate.

Admittedly, burn rate is more art than science. For example, Williams spent a considerable amount on production costs early which means he jumped ahead of a conventional campaign. His rate would be a lot more efficient without that cost, so you have to scrutinize the expenses.

Yet even with such limitations, ratios serve as a useful gauge of campaign efficiency. For example, Brizzi’s staff cost him $33,000 to raise that $138,000, for a 4.1 staff to dollars ratio. In comparison, Kennedy raised her $252,000 on about $11,000 in staff costs for a 25.1 staff to dollar ratio, making Kennedy finance director Katie Lineweaver the best buy in Marion County politics.

So how does Brizzi spend almost every dollar he raises in a year?

Living the high life, baby! Reading his report will make you want to become an elected official because what you can do with other people’s campaign donations is amazing. Who's down with OPD (other people's donations)?!? Yeah you know, C!

Carl had a total of $7,300 worth of dining expenses listed under the heading “business meeting.” No, not fundraiser. “Business meeting.” This includes, but is certainly not limited to, 12 trips to Harry & Izzy’s for $2,501, 2 to Ruth’s Chris for $717, 4 to Sullivan’s for $426, five to Ambrosia for $1371, 2 to the Canal Grill for $179, 2 to the Capital Grill for $154, and 2 to Bella Vita for $196. He also spent $300 at a place called Luciano’s in Michigan for a “donor meeting” that apparently didn't go well since there are no Michigan donors on his report. (As an aside, who really goes to ask for money and spends $300 at the meal?)

Brizzi paid $345 to the Indianapolis Bar Association for his annual dues in addition to a total of $1450 for a prosecutor’s conference in San Francisco. One restaurant accounted for $508 of that cost.

Traveling in style is apparently important for Brizzi, who spent $540 on Image Limo in Chicago the same night he went to the Su Casa restaurant and spent $207 for “networking” and $545 staying at the Omni Hotel. On a different date, Brizzi spent $342 for Party Time Limousine. Folks, you don’t spend $342 on a ride to the airport.

Brizzi also has approximately $1,500 in reimbursements to himself for “travel” and “business meetings.” We know not where he went. But it's pretty clear if you work this whole elected official thing right, you can backdoor tons of money.

A couple of my other favorite items are $848 spent at Brown & Joseph for “gifts.” To whom? We don’t know! Nor do we know who received the $350 gift from Iwan Ries, a cigar shop in Chicago. On the subject of gifts, I chuckled at the $604 expense from Circle Center Mall for "employee Christmas bonus" dated January 6. Very timely of you, Carl!

You may say, “Who cares? The guy isn’t spending taxpayer money. He can use it as he chooses, and if his donors are dumb enough to give to the guy knowing he’s going to spend it eating out every night instead of running for office, that’s there idiocy.”

Actually, that’s precisely my point. Only by having concrete restrictions on how campaign funds can be used and more descriptive campaign finance reports can you distinguish between a campaign contribution and bribery.

Okay, maybe it's "reverse bribery" and not "actual" bribery because the donor may not have the intent. But the candidate sure knows that if he wants to keep living the highlife, he needs to keep getting the dollars. As far as the reporting, how do we know Brizzi didn’t smoke every cigar from Iwan Ries himself? Because he’s done such a bang up job disclosing information to us we’ll just trust him?

But in keeping with my New Year’s Resolution of saying something good about everybody, I want to publicly applaud Brizzi for donating $250 and $400 respectively to Indiana Equality and the Lambda Defense Fund, two organizations devoted to ending orientation and gender identity-based discrimination.

You have to have chutzpah out the yin yang to donate to both Indiana Equality and Lambda Defense and Vanderburgh County Right to Life, though I'm going to assume they weren’t in the same room when they got their checks.

Stay tuned for more analysis of the Marion County Prosecutor's Race and what will be done with Brizzi's half million in the bank....



Koz said...

Didn't Brizzi leave the race basically because of his connections with money that helped him live the high life?

Bad day to be wanting more campaign finance restrictions with the Citizen's United ruling. I think the focus needs to be on transparency versus restrictions.

I'm more annoyed on his selections of restaurants. Harry and Izzy's is nice, but 12 times? How far back does that report go. He couldn't throw Elements a bone before it closed instead of some of those chain steak houses? No trips to Oakley's Bistro? I know its on the North side, but that's the best restaurant in Indy. Hack.

And boy, does that man like his steakhouses. Feel free to mix in a trip to Oceannaire every once and a while, your heart will thank you.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Um, it's ILLEGAL to spend campaign money for expenses not related to the campaign. You can't spend campaign money for personal stuff like just going out to eat with friends or to pay dues for your job. You can spend it to take campaign workers out or to raise money. I'm dumbfounded that Brizzi didn't know that.

I'll have to look more closely at that report.

varangianguard said...

Nathan, Mr. Brizzi seems to have a personal financial interest in Harry & Izzy's. I'm sure that influenced his decision-making process.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how many times Helen Maerchel was a party to those parties? surely his chief of staff was involved in some of those "meetings". P.S. - doesnt Carl own Harry & Izzy's? In fact doesn't "Izzy" refer to him?

You have a great way with words Mr. Warden.

Chris Worden said...


I agree, but the definition of what is "related" to a campaign is extremely subjective and seldom scrutinized. So, here's how you know whether it's legit. If it's a "pitch meeting," then it would be with somebody new everytime. No candidate will meet 12 times with the same guy. I bet anything these were political b.s. sessions paid for by Brizzi donors.


Gary R. Welsh said...

Good analysis, Chris. I learned how politicians use their campaign finance money at an early age. When I was in college, I interned for my state senator. He had his state-paid legislative secretary prepare his campaign finance report, although he personally served as his own treasurer. This secretary and I figured out that he had used his campaign funds to pay off a bank loan for a Corvette, a trip to Mexico for he and his wife, thousands of dollars in VISA credit card charges that weren't identified. We also got a call from Phyllis Schlaffly asking why he didn't report a several thousand dollar contribution her Eagle Forum had made to him. It seemed he had accidentally deposited that check into a personal account instead of his campaign account. I wondered what the difference between the accounts were based on how the money was being spent. When I suggested that he should find someone else to be his campaign treasurer, he told me he wouldn't be needing my services as an intern anymore. He eventually got caught up in a sex scandal and was forced to resign, but the IRS never went after him, although his business did go bankrupt.

Paul K. Ogden said...


I would agree. The problem is the airfare and the dining out at restaurants in San Francisco, Miami, etc. You reach a point where there the "common sense" standard kicks in. It's a lot easier to hide those offenses when they are made in Indinaapolis. This is a local office after all.

Koz said...

Thanks, I did not realize it was Harry and BRIzzy's (was out of state when it opened). That makes it even classier, having his donors pay 200 bucks a pop to his own restaurant.

Still don't think it should government restricted though. I do think it would be great if the Red Team and Blue Team enforced greater transparency as a condition for party support.

Donors should also demand to know where their money is spent.

Had Enough Indy? said...

As Paul says in his follow-up on this post, this kind of spending surely indicates a long held decision not to run again. The party boy image is only reenforced with these expenditures.

Good job pulling this all out into the daylight. I doubt donors would give twice after they saw the uses to which their money was put. Except maybe the ones who only want to buy future influence.

Anonymous said...

This not going to help with future Republican donations. I'm not interested in paying for Mayor McDonalds dinner

Anonymous said...

Don't you think most of those "expenses" are actually date receipts from the various women Carl was "impressing?"

The "donor meeting" was probably Carl "donating" his manjuice to you know who and charging it to his expense account.

I bet there is some IRS agent somewhere working behind the scenes on this who is salivating!

Anonymous said...

State law is pretty vague on what candidates can do with their contributions. IC 3-9-3-4 provides that campaign contributions can only be used to "(1) defray any expense
reasonably related to the person's or committee's A) campaign for federal, state, legislative, or local office;(B) continuing political activity; or (C) activity related to service in an elected office; (2) to make an expenditure to any national, state, or local committee of any political party or another candidate's committee."

State law also prohibits campaign contributions from being used for "primarily personal purposes".

Upon dissolution of a committee, money can be spent in a variety of ways, such as transferred to another committee or donated to a 501(c)(3) charity.

Chris, when did most of these expenditures occur? Over the year, or mostly in the last few months?

Anonymous said...

Brown and Joseph appears to be a nation-wide collection agency. Interesting. The employee Christmas bonus is also interesting in that Carl's top people received gift certificates from Harry and Izzy's for Christmas.

Anonymous said...

Can Brizzi give money to the Fishburn for Sheriff campaign?
According to what I know, he can use the money for anything he wants.

I assume that he will be donateing a bunch to Fishburn and Helen. Kind of funny because Fishburn will not be slated and Helen needs to run from the man as soon as possible

Anonymous said...

While this may be a good year for Republicans nationwide, the local braintrust running the Marion County GOP is screwing this up like a pro! You could not ask for anything better than Marchal's "I know nothing about Carlito" and Fishburn's "28 years to make Sargent" career. What is up with Tom John's strategy here? Is this a suicide mission?!

Someone needs to take Mr. Brizzi to task on this - or like Chris said - does anyone really care anymore?

M Theory said...

I dared criticize the great and powerful Carl brizzi on his FB once and was unceremoniously defriended.

I was offended that MY public servant would defriend me.

he's a coward

Anonymous said...

"Brown & Joseph" is the company that the Indy Cigar Bar handles card transactions through, if that means anything in this context.

Anonymous said...

So Carl spent almost $1000 of his donors' money on cigars??

Anonymous said...

It would make sense that Carl would need $1000 of cigars. With the lights off, women might really think he has a tool.