Incumbent U.S. presidents facing a challenger sometimes don’t do much campaigning, but instead make a bigger show of doing the job of president. This is known to reporters as campaigning from “the rose garden.” Unlike the White House, the office of Massachusetts Attorney General does not, as far as I know, come with a rose garden. But Tom Reilly’s campaign for governor seems to be all about the rose garden.
On August 18th, I wondered what had happened to Tom Reilly, who seemed not to be campaigning. He didn’t show for a big annual political fest, the Sheriff Ashe picnic in Agawam. I noticed at the time, that at least according to his campaign web site, there hadn’t been a public campaign event since July 23rd. Indeed, visitors can still, as of this writing, sign-up for the July 23rd event. (Hey, sign up today so you can enter Tom’s Time Machine to take you back to Pittsfield where you can “learn about how you can impact the race for the Corner Office in 2006!”)
Reilly’s campaign so far mostly comprises fundraising events and press generated from his work as Attorney General. As a matter of fact, the last update on the campaign web site shows “Tom relaxing in Martha’s Vineyard” before a fundraiser in Edgartown.
But the media have begun to wake up and smell the roses. The Boston Herald reports, “As Attorney General Tom Reilly ramps up his run for governor, he is packing his public payroll with a team of political advisers and strategists — most of whom are paid more than his top attorneys.”
“In fact, one of Reilly’s top operatives, Stephen Bilafer, is listed on state payroll records as filling the $100,000 taxpayer-funded position of “senior counsel” to the AG — even though he is not a lawyer.”
“Also in Reilly’s inner circle at a taxpayer cost of $100,000-a-year each are chief of staff Stephen Kerrigan and ‘bureau director’ Brian Delaney, a public relations guru and former press secretary to U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. Pay for assistant attorneys general, who prosecute court cases for the state, ranges from $30,000 to $79,000. Aside from Bilafer, Delaney and Kerrigan, Reilly’s taxpayer-funded PR team consists of six employees making a total of $313,700 annually…. While the AG’s public payroll is stacked with PR pay, campaign finance records show that Reilly’s campaign is paying just $35,000 a year to spokeswoman Kendra Medville and $22,000 a year to another staffer. He also paid $16,900 in July to The Campaign Group, a Philadelphia-based campaign consultant.”
The article notes that “The line between state duties and the campaign has been further blurred recently with appearances by a Reilly press assistant taking notes at press conferences by Reilly’s potential opponent, Gov. Mitt Romney. And Bilafer, who insiders speculate will head Reilly’s 2006 gubernatorial bid, has been quoted in news stories on campaign-related issues. State ethics rules ban state employees from doing campaign work on the job.”
The article quotes an office spokesman who insists that there is a “bright line” between the AG’s office and the campaign. Yes, and thats not surprising, since so far Reilly’s activities are almost all office and almost no campaign.
Boston Globe columnist Scott Lehigh looked at the matter from a different angle recently. “As attorney general, Thomas Reilly has had two and a half years to put together a campaign kitty of $3 million. Not so Deval Patrick, the only other serious candidate currently in the race. Unlike Reilly, Patrick, a former assistant US attorney general, doesn’t have a public post to lend him prominence — or to provide staffers who can double as after-hours troops for his campaign. While Reilly gets by with a three-person paid political team, Patrick is paying a staff of 14, plus several consultants.”
And that campaign staff has not been inactive.
The Reilly web site shows a campaign lazing its way through the summer, and raising ever-more money. But Patrick’s campaign web site shows a regular schedule of campaign events — and I have seen signs of a growing grassroots campaign infrastructure in all parts of the state. I see an active and inspiring candidate that is turning many a skeptic into a believer. Not only does this pragmatic progressive candidate inspire, but he convinces people of his viability wherever he goes.
Its a relatively quiet time in politics. Its the week before Labor Day. People are on vacation, and thinking about the start of the school year. The primary for the Democratic nomination for governor is a year away. But its worth noting that since Patrick announced his candidacy a few months ago, his big public speeches — to the MA Democratic State Convention, and to the New Democracy Coalition on the occasion of the 40th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act — have been home runs, bringing people to their feet and flocking to his campaign. Patrick campaign manager John Walsh said, recently, “give me a couple thousand volunteers and I can beat the money.”
I have no doubt Walsh will get his volunteers.