Super-PAC Super-Salaries

After reams of publicity about the power and glory of Super-PACs in this presidential cycle, and considerable scrutiny of the antics of big donors like Winning Our Future’s Sheldon Adelson and Red, White and Blue Fund’s Foster Friess, people are finally beginning to pay some attention to how much of this money is spent on items other than nasty ads.

This report is from yesterday’s Washington Times, in a story that begins with FEC warnings to Newt Gingrich’s campaign about questionable reimbursement of candidate and staff expenses:

A separate disclosure Monday showed that Becky Burkett, a former top official of a nonprofit Mr. Gingrich headed who now runs a pro-Gingrich super PAC called Winning Our Future, paid herself $220,000 in donated money last month — making more in 20 days than any other super PAC official has made in total since the groups exploded onto the scene, a review by The Times showed.

Super PAC spokesman Rick Tyler said the payments compensated her for November, December and part of January. The fund brought in its first donation Dec. 7…. [T]hat rate puts the Gingrich confidante on pace for an annual salary in the millions.

Hmmm. You may recall that Winning Our Future, after its viciously effective attacks on Mitt Romney in SC, was expected to reprise its activities with a blitz in Florida after a fresh subvention of cash from the Adelson family–but didn’t quite come through. Looks like maybe the Super-PAC had other financial fish to fry.

This small but illuminating incident is a good example of the phenomenon Walter Shapiro wrote about in the last issue of the Monthly: the ongoing overvaluation of the services of political consultants.

But it’s all a matter of perspective, I guess. As Winning Our Future’s Rick Tyler said when questioned about Becky Burkett’s large income:

“In this business, we all could be out of a job next — you just don’t know,” he said. “People make more knowing that this could be a short-term contract.”

Welcome to America, folks.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.