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Beutler amassing, spending lots of campaign cash

According to state campaign finance reports, Mayor Chris Beutler is amassing a tidy sum of money for the mayoral race — but he’s also spending quite a bit of it, even though he’s seen as a shoo-in for re-election.

Heading into 2011, Beutler had more than $100,000 in cash on hand, according to his report with the state Accountability & Disclosure Commission. By March 1, he’d spent more than $71,000 — including nearly $30,000 on polling to a Washington, D.C.,-based company in January and February. I keep hearing reports of people being polled about city races; I wonder if they’re polling every month?

Beutler also donated $11,000 to the Nebraska Democratic Party for a coordinated campaign (you know, like for those mailings that go out to registered Democrats reminding them to “vote for our Democratic team”). And he paid the Thought District $9,000 for this website. (I made my campaign website myself for $17. Maybe it shows, but I’ve never made a website before.)

By comparison, Republican mayoral challenger Tammy Buffington reported she had raised just $1,600 as of March 1. I’ve heard her say at campaign events that she probably won’t raise more than $15,000 — and that she hasn’t received any money from the Republican Party. It’s very clear to me that the Democrats are much more organized and aggressive on the local level than the Republicans.

So the question is, why is Beutler raising and spending money like a madman? Some speculate that he intends to run for governor in three years. Others say he wants to prevent the Democrats from losing control of the City Council, which would make it harder for him to accomplish his agenda.

Out on the campaign trail, people are telling me they’re getting hit up to volunteer and donate money like crazy by the Democrats. I was amused by the direct-mail flier that recently went out in Lincoln urging Democrats to “vote for your Democratic team” — with a photo of Beutler and all the local Democrats running for offices from airport authority to school board to city council.

Why was I amused? Because one of the last irritations I had as a reporter involved Beutler calling my boss and complaining that I had referred to council members as “Republican” or “Democrat.” I only ever did that when it appeared politics or political philosophy was at play in a debate or vote or bickering, but Beutler felt I was contributing to partisanship by even pointing out people’s party affiliation.

Now, just a few months later, he is sending out fliers urging Lincolnites to vote for an Airport Authority member based on whether they’re a Republican or Democrat. I find that amusing.

Other interesting tidbits about who has raised how much money for this campaign season:

• Councilman Jon Camp is also headed for re-election in southeast Lincoln, but he’s still raising and spending money like his seat is on the line. He’s got signs all over town (far outside of his district), oversized signs and I’ve seen one billboard (like he doesn’t have name recognition). According to his most recent campaign report, he had nearly $65,000 in cash on hand.

• By comparison, Councilman Jonathan Cook — who, like Camp, has served on the council for 12 years — reported more than $10,000 in cash on hand as of March 1. Unlike Camp, Cook doesn’t like to raise money. (Which is probably why he still owes his old campaigns $38,500.)

• Councilman Doug Emery (who is seeking his second four-year term) had nearly $15,000 in cash on hand as of March 1. What’s interesting about Emery, a Democrat, is that he said he won’t accept money from the firefighters’ union this year (there goes like $15,000).

• Democrat Carl Eskridge — who is running for the City Council in northwest Lincoln — reported nearly $12,000 in cash on hand as of March, almost all of it from individuals. The biggest contribution was $3,000 from John Hannah of Houston, Texas. Wish I had rich friends in Texas!

• Republican City Council candidates Chad Wright, Travis Nelson and Melissa Hilty, Democrat Bobbi Kosmicki and independent Deena Winter (me) don’t file campaign finance reports until they’ve raised $5,000, which apparently they have not since I can’t find reports for them. (I know I haven’t — I made that crazy promise not to take money from anyone but individuals, so I will raise much less money than most candidates. Most of my donations are $20 to $25, and I love that!)

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