The most important campaign funding cycle in Mississippi is the May 2011 report because it takes into account fundraising for the first 4 months of the election year. It’s usually an outstanding barometer of where candidates are in their fundraising and where they’ll wind up. I look at that report and then the 48 hour reports just before an election. Those are usually people trying to get on the right side of a victory.
On the May 2011 report, courtesy of the YallPolitics Memory Division, Tate Reeves reported $724K raised during that period. Billy Hewes reported $553K. However, of that $553K, $225K came in the form of loans on the day before the end of the reporting period (4/29/11). Hewes loaned his campaign $75K and had businessmen John Heath and Wayne Tisdale did the same.
Loans are an acceptable way of campaign finance. There’s nothing wrong with believing in your campaign enough to loan it money. However, if it’s done just to inflate the numbers, that’s not cool at all and is candidly just gamesmanship. Had Hewes reported what he had raised in May without the loans, the press backlash would have been devastating. The headlines would have read that Reeves outraised Hewes well over 2:1 and I think it would have had a real effect on press treatment and more importantly fundraising for the rest of the campaign. I certainly noticed the loans then, but held off reporting giving the benefit of the doubt to the fact that the money might actually stay in the campaign and be spent. Hewes made a big deal about his fundraising success on that reporting period by saying, “This support is reflected in today’s report – not only from a total contributions level, which has made us very competitive, but from a broad cross section of contributors from throughout Mississippi.”
The Tate Reeves campaign thought they smelled a rat on Hewes campaign loans from a similar transaction from the Hewes’ June report. Crawdaddy reported it.
But Reeves supporters said Hewes’ donations include a $100,000 loan from his father, and they question whether Hewes is using loans that are “only on paper” to inflate his campaign fundraising numbers. To-date, Hewes has listed more than $300,000 in loans to the campaign.
A Hewes campaign spokesman said this is absolutely not the case, and chalked such questions up to sour grapes over Hewes banking more money than Reeves for the June report.
“There’s nothing in our account for show,” said Hewes spokesman Keith Plunkett. “The money in the Billy Hewes account for lieutenant governor is meant to be spent.”
And I say that because what Reeves complained about just happened. On Billy Hewes campaign finance report yesterday, those May 2011 loans were repaid in full (coincidentally the day after the June reporting deadline – 7/1/11).
There’s certainly nothing nefarious or illegal about the transaction, but in my mind it is telling about where Hewes insiders (including the candidate) think this campaign will wind up. We will know in less than a week.