Sunday, July 19, 1998
We'd like a dime for every time we have heard George Voinovich, Ohio's governor and now Republican U.S. Senate candidate, talk about how much he hates the process of raising campaign money.
The frugal Mr. Voinovich, whom some say invented the hair shirt, pinches pennies in his personal life, shining his own shoes and picking coins out of urinals as he did at his inauguration ball nearly eight years ago.
He has said on many occasions how much he hates the idea of asking people for money, how the process is demeaning, etc., etc.
But for a guy who hates political fund raising so much, he sure is good at it.
Last week, Mr. Voinovich's Senate campaign filed its quarterly campaign finance report, as did those of all candidates for federal office.
It showed that the Voinovich campaign had nearly $3.8 million in the bank, and had raised about $928,000 of it in the last three months alone.
Mr. Voinovich must be just miserable.
Believe it or not, this is not even on the high end of what U.S. Senate candidates in big states raise for campaigns as the 20th century draws to a close.
But it is an awful lot of money, particularly when you are the sitting two-term governor who has been on the statewide scene for 20 years, when you have an approval rating between 60 and 70 percent and a double-digit lead in the polls.
And it is a particularly huge pot of money when your opponent, Democrat Mary Boyle, is far less-known outside of her home base of Cuyahoga County.
It is, in fact, about nine times what your opponent has in the bank. Ms. Boyle, a former Cuyahoga County commissioner, reported a campaign fund of $417,751 as of July 1.
There was a time, a few months ago, when Ms. Boyle had considerably more money than that, but she spent the bulk of it on a TV ad campaign in the primary.
The ads tweaked Mr. Voinovich over his support for the state sales tax increase for school funding that was on the May primary ballot. The ballot issue was rejected by an astounding 80 percent of Ohio voters; and the TV campaign raised Ms. Boyle's profile a bit and, as statewide polls showed, cut into Mr. Voinovich's lead in the Senate race.
It was a calculated gamble on the part of Ms. Boyle's campaign. The upside was that, by spending money early, Ms. Boyle left some bruises on a formidable opponent, softening him up a bit for the real campaign this fall.
The downside was that it left the Boyle campaign scrambling to make up the money it spent in the spring, while the Voinovich campaign continued raking in dollars by the hundred thousands.
Last week, on a visit to Washington, Ms. Boyle told reporters for Ohio newspapers that she planned to raise another $2 million before the campaign this fall.
She may well, but it sounded to some like a guy standing in the Powerball line, clutching his two bucks and telling everybody about the South Seas island he's going to buy when he hits the numbers. Even if Ms. Boyle raises her $2 million, what it will mean is that she will be outspent by only 2- or 3-to-1.
But the Boyle campaign believes it has something on its side that is even better than money -- issues.
Ms. Boyle plans to continue to hammer at her contention that Mr. Voinovich has failed in his promise eight years ago to be the "education governor." Lately, she has taken to hammering him on environmental issues, claiming his administration has done little to address air and water pollution concerns.
But the reality of politics is that issues mean little if nobody hears what you have to say; and it takes money to do that.
If the U.S. Supreme Court was right 22 years ago when it said that, in politics, money equals speech, the Voinovich campaign will have a very loud voice.
Howard Wilkinson's politics column appears on Sundays. He can be reached at 768-8388; or by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org