McMahon Campaign Flub Shows Importance of Campaign Treasurers

November 14, 2012

Paul Bass at the New Haven Independent has been chronicling the plight of the workers the McMahon campaign paid to hand out literature. The workers complained to the media that they did not receive their paychecks. However this problem is hardly new when it comes to political campaigns. The media is rife with accounts of vendors that have unpaid bills or in the case of Mitt Romney stranded campaign workers. Since campaigns tend to be rag-tag operations the financials take a backseat to other priorities. Neglecting these responsibilities can cause the kind of negative media attention that McMahon is receiving.

On the campaign side the most important thing is to have a good treasurer. Most political operatives do not want to be a treasurer because it is a lot of mundane work. If you cannot find a quality treasurer among your typical group of volunteers I do not think it is a bad idea to simply hire a professional. A good treasurer will keep copies of all documentation, be kept in the loop about anticipated expenditures, and cut salary and reimbursement checks in a timely manner. These seem like simple steps but reluctant or absent treasurers can make life hell for the rest of the campaign workers and the associated vendors. Meanwhile a diligent treasurer that keeps everyone in the loop will qualm any money fears the workers have.

If you are a consultant or other vendor it is important to have contact with the campaign treasurer or someone who has contact with that individual. Generally the campaigns are not going to actively attempt to stiff anyone but it is easy for your information to get lost in the shuffle of the busy campaign cycle. The one nice thing about campaigns is that their finance records are public records so you can see if the treasurer has properly recorded their liability to you if you have not been paid. In CT this is available on the SEEC website. For federal campaigns you can check the FEC website.

Ultimately I think communication is the most important component of being a campaign treasurer. Be honest and keep vendors in the loop about the cash flow situation. Keep good records and make sure the campaign workers have an open line of communication with you regarding campaign expenditures. If you cannot handle the responsibilities then you are better off handing them off to someone who can pay full attention so you avoid getting into trouble later or creating this kind of negative publicity.

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