- The Washington Times - Monday, November 26, 2012

Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign paid millions of dollars to companies led by top advisers and, by many measures, the campaign got less to show for it than in-house staffers performing a labor of love for President Obama’s campaign, expenditure records show.

The Romney team spent twice as much as the Obama campaign on direct mail and telemarketing, paying tens of millions of dollars to two companies tied to Romney aides. Republican operatives said that resulted in a potential conflict of interest that could explain why the party’s nominee relied heavily on those tactics, and not enough on the kinds of grass-roots efforts Mr. Obama rode to victory.

“The problem is the Republican consultants have a very incestuous relationship. They’re sending money to companies they all control at a profit, and they’re telling donors this is what wins elections. And I think they were exposed badly” on Election Day, said Drew Ryun, a former Republican National Committee official whose brother runs American Majority, a nonprofit that helps train Republicans to organize volunteers.

SCM Associates Inc., a company bearing the initials of close Romney associate Stephen C. Meyers, billed $48 million for direct mail, according to the records. FLS Connect, which counts as a partner Romney political director Rich Beeson, charged $36 million for telemarketing and robocalls, the records show.

Through Oct. 17, Mr. Romney and the RNC spent $130 million on direct mail, far more than the $80 million their Democratic counterparts spent, according to an analysis by The Washington Times of Federal Election Commission records. The largest portion of that money went to Mr. Meyers’ company, which has been sending mail solicitations on behalf of Republicans since 1991. Mr. Romney and the RNC spent $60 million on telemarketing, compared with $25 million by Mr. Obama and his allies, with most of it going to FLS Connect, which also performed non-telemarketing work.

The campaign focused on SCM and FLS Connect’s offerings despite evidence that the tactics are increasingly ineffective, Mr. Ryun said.

“It’s statistically proven that face-to-face contact is most effective, and that it drops off dramatically on live phone calls, and then the bottom completely drops out with direct mail,” he said.

Salaried employees

The majority of Mr. Obama’s fundraising and digital operations were performed in-house by salaried employees. Among major telemarketing and direct-mail vendors for Mr. Obama were AB Data, at $37 million, and Telefund, at $8 million, but neither appeared to be owned by Obama advisers.

The Obama campaign has, however, paid $3.4 million this election cycle to Benenson Strategy, the company of the campaign’s chief pollster, Joel Benenson.

Andrew Boucher, a Republican consultant and former political director for former Sen. Rick Santorum’s presidential campaign, said the Romney campaign paid consultants rather than investing in mundane expenditures such as coffee and doughnuts for neighborhood volunteers, reached a saturation point with direct mail and calls, and failed to get neighbors knocking on doors.

“No one has figured out how to make a 15 percent commission when they hire a field representative to line up county commissioners and precinct captains and, shockingly, we do too little of it,” he said. “The fact that someone’s making money from a specific type of voter outreach has got to at a certain point affect their judgment.”

The complaints are being expressed as Republicans assess how they lost what many assumed to be a winnable race, given the economic climate and questions about Mr. Obama’s record.

After the election, Mr. Romney blamed his loss on an Obama strategy of doling out “gifts” to various demographics and interest groups, but many Republicans rejected that explanation as insulting to voters.

Political pros instead have looked to Mr. Romney’s failure to connect with voters, coupled with his reliance on outdated campaign strategies, as key reasons for why he lost.

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