Saturday, January 07, 2012

A Question for Gary Johnson

English: Gary E. JohnsonImage via WikipediaFollowers of third party political news are probably aware that on December 28, former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson abandoned his campaign for the Republican Party's 2012 presidential nomination and announced that he'll instead be seeking the nomination of the Libertarian Party.

Libertarian activists seem, for the most part, excited about this development, as well they should be. Cavils about carpet-bagging and bad branding ("the party of Republicans who can't find support in their own party") and such aside, it's probably a net plus that a former two-term governor thinks of the LP as a worthy vehicle for a presidential campaign.

But I have a question -- a question that Libertarian Party members and prospective campaign donors should be asking.

Johnson's presidential campaign committee ("Gary Johnson 2012 Inc."), like all other presidential campaign committees that have raised or spent more than $5,000, files quarterly reports with the Federal Elections Commission. The report for the 4th quarter of 2011 isn't due until the 15th, but the report for the 3rd quarter -- covering the period through the end of September -- shows the campaign with only $10,882 dollars on hand ... and debts of $240,067.

I'm just guessing here, but I suspect that the campaign's financial situation got worse, not better, in the 4th quarter. If I'm right, then we're looking at a campaign somewhere in the general neighborhood of $250k in the red.

Who's going to pay off that debt?

If Johnson (who's independently wealthy) is willing to get his campaign back to the zero point out of his own pocket, well, that's great.

If not, then Libertarians are being asked to dig their presumptive front-runner out of a campaign finance hole he dug over in GOP-land, before they even begin to finance things like television advertising and putting the candidate on the road to get his message out.

$250k may not be huge over on the "major party" side of things, where presidential campaign expenses are now running into the hundreds of millions of dollars. The Libertarian Party's recent presidential candidates, on the other hand, have run campaigns in the $1-2 million dollar range, against which $250k is a pretty big deal.

I've seen some snarky remarks around the blogosphere about the fact that the rest of the Libertarian presidential field hasn't raised a whole lot of money. But I suspect that each and every one of those others has a better bottom line than Johnson does at the moment.

Raising money's important. Spending money's important too. But especially important is doing more of the former than the latter.

Something to think about, Libertarians.

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