Citing TPMmuckraker Report, Cao’s Campaign Suspends Work With Base Connect

March 9, 2010 4:37 a.m.

The campaign of Rep. Joseph Cao (R-LA) has suspended its relationship with Base Connect, a Washington fundraising firm, citing TPMmuckraker’s reporting on the company.

“We have frozen doing anything else with Base Connect,” Bryan Wagner a top adviser to the campaign, told the New Orleans Times-Picayune yesterday. Wagner said the decision was prompted by our story from yesterday, which suggested that Cao is among the GOP candidates being taken advantage of by Base Connect. Wagner added that the decision would also apply to Base Connect’s affiliated companies, at least one of which works out of the same office suite.Asked about the decision, a Cao spokesman told TPMmuckraker via email: “No comment.”

As we wrote, the business model for Base Connect — formerly known as BMW Direct — appears to involve using direct-mail appeals to a well-honed list of national Republican donors to raise a money on behalf of its candidates. The firm then charges the candidate 75 percent or more of the total of what it raised, leaving the candidate with little actual cash on hand. Each campaign not only allows Base Connect to turn a hefty profit, but also helps it further hone its master list for future use. One Republican consultant recently called the firm’s strategy “sub-prime fundraising,” and “highway robbery,” and another told us the company has an “awful reputation.”

A recent AP report found that Cao’s campaign had spent around 75 percent of the money it raised on fundraising, leaving it with just $315,00 cash on hand. Last year, according to the Times-Picayune, Cao’s campaign paid over $390,00 to Base Connect and its affiliated companies. That’s similar to another current Base Connect client, Pennsylvania GOP House candidate Bill Russell, whose campaign raised $2.8 million last year, but paid $2.6 million of it to Base Connect and its affiliates for fundraising expenses. And the campaigns of Base Connect clients in past cycles have had similar financial profiles.

Wagner told the paper that, despite the decision to suspend working with Base Connect, the Cao campaign had gained a national donor list of 10,000 names through its relationship with the firm. That will be used for the campaign’s own direct-mail effort, even if its not done through Base Connect.

Cao is one of the most vulnerable GOP incumbents this cycle. He won his seat in a heavily Democratic district in 2008, after facing a badly weakened opponent, Democrat William Jefferson, who was facing corruption charges of which he was later convicted.

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