Tuesday, February 21, 2006

DNC - Too Cheap To Pay $11,000?

Clinton In Winnetka, 1996
c Flying Debris

The fact that the Democratic National Committee has not written an $11,000 check so that a prolific Democratic fundraiser can get to the 1st tee on a Saturday morning without getting razzed by his neighbors makes me wonder about the DNCs financial condition.

This Chicago Tribune article reports on the conflict between Democratic fundraising big-shot William Brandt Jr., CEO of Development Specialists Inc. and his hometown of Winnetka, IL. Mr. Brandt held a fundraising soiree for then candidate President Clinton in the fall of 1996. I attended a tightly controlled “meet and greet” before that fundraiser (photo above) when the President’s helicopters landed at Duke Childs Field, also in Winnetka. As is his habit, the President was late. President Clinton then took a motorcade across Winnetka to the Brandt home on Sheridan Rd. Sheridan Rd. runs along the shore of Lake Michigan and some of the village’s most extravagant homes are on it.

Winnetka secured the area outside of Duke Childs Field, a series of athletic fields plus the motorcade route and the Brandt neighborhood. It is the cost of this security that the village of Winnetka is seeking recoup by billing Mr. Brandt. Although he is often described as a millionaire bankruptcy executive Mr. Brandt has declined to pay the $11,000 bill and is making a federal case out of the issue, literally. He has sued the village of Winnetka in Federal Court.

The article also reports that Patrick Ryan, Executive Chairman of AON Corp. received a similar bill involving village security at two political events. The Tribune reports that Mr. Ryan and the Republicans handled that situation in a much more graceful manner. Point of disclosure, my late father was quite good friends with Pat, they had much in common including Notre Dame. The Ryans held two fundraisers in their Winnetka home for President Bush during the 2004 election season and the village billed Mr. Ryan $80,000. Mr. Ryan declined to pay the bill and explained that for him to do so would violate federal campaign finance laws. Eventually the Republican National Committee paid the bill, allowing the Ryans to both not stick their neighbors with their fundraising bills and not violate federal statutes.

The Village of Winnetka bills its residents for security in a variety of crowd situations including charitable benefits. It does sound like they are on good footing, after all Mr. Clinton was there to raise money. In the mean time Mr. Brandt has wrapped himself in the robe of the 1st Amendment while his attorney has taken the more rational approach of contesting parts of the statute. My take on this? Mr. Brandt is in a bind here, if he pays the bill he may be in violation of the campaign finance statutes; on the other hand if he sticks his neighbors with his political fundraising bill he may not get invited to the next block party. This may be a stalling scheme. They may want to stall until they get the fundraising cranked up again. At that time one would hope that Howard Dean could find $11,000 in order to get Mr. Brandt out of this bind; it’s killing his golf game.


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