Conservative Fundraising Firm Takes Hefty Cut From Other Candidate’s Haul

During the first quarter of 2008, BMW Direct, a conservative political firm in Washington, helped raise more than $500,000 for an obscure Republican longshot running for Congress in Georgia.

But in a replay of the firm’s modus operandi in a Massachusetts race, as chronicled by the Boston Globe, most of the money raised by BMW Direct in the Georgia race has come from out-of-state contributors and been spent on supposed campaign-related services provide by the firm and its affiliates.

A half a million dollars in a single quarter is a substantial haul for even well-financed, high-profile candidates, let alone someone like Deborah Travis Honeycutt, who ran for the seat in 2006 and lost by 38 points.

BMW Direct, which has a track record of raising a lot of campaign money and then directing most of it to affiliates or vendors, uses glossy direct-mail campaigns targeting conservatives across the country, urging them to chip in to help defeat liberal lawmakers and push hot-button right-wing issues.

Honeycutt lists BMW Direct’s Washington office as her campaign address, and the firm’s FEC compliance officer, Scott Mackenzie, is listed as her treasurer, according to her most recent FEC filing.

Honeycutt’s campaign has brought in more than $1.7 million so far this election cycle. It has also spent more than $1.5 million.

For the most recent quarter, the campaign raised $620,016.72 in mostly small donations from across the country, according to her most recent FEC filing. And she spent $537,622.68 during the first quarter, most of which was to cover the costs of the direct mail campaign.

Only a small fraction of the money went to pay for a campaign on the ground. The total money spent in Georgia was $16,695. That covered expenses listed as political field work, public relations and media.

However, more than $314,000 went to BMW Direct and its affiliates who all work in the same downtown Washington office building. That’s not including the other large payments to other Washington-area firms for direct mail-related expenses.

For example, Honeycutt’s FEC report shows a payment to BMW Direct affiliate Century Data Systems Corp. for $7,430.85 for “data processing” on Feb. 4, 2008. The campaign cut a $23,569 check to the affiliate Legacy List Marketing for “list rentals” on Feb. 21, 2008. And a $19,544 check on March 7 for “direct mail fundraising” went to a company called Patriot Partners, which shares an office address with Legacy List Marketing.

This is the second time Honeycutt’s run for the seat, and last time she also worked with BMW Direct. In the 2006 cycle, she raised $1.1 million from donors across the country. But most of the money went to BMW Direct and its affiliates and vendors. That campaign didn’t get much attention and she lost to the incumbent, Rep. David Scott (D-GA) by a wide margin, 31 percent to Scott’s 69 percent.

Now she’s at it again. Honeycutt is outraising and outspending Scott by about four times. But the district is rated “Safe Democrat” by Congressional Quarterly.

We called the BMW Direct office this afternoon and a receptionist said there was no one available to take our call. We also put in a call down to Honeycutt’s campaign in Georgia, but have not heard back from them.

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