Morella Handed Out $35,000 in Campaign Bonuses

Posted January 31, 2003 at 6:38pm

During her final days in office, former Rep. Connie Morella (R-Md.) handed out $35,000 in bonuses from her re-election campaign to top aides, according to just-released campaign finance records.

Morella becomes the latest lawmaker to give out such bonuses, although it’s usually done by politicians who are victorious at the polling booth. Reps. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.),

Jerry Kleczka (D-Wis.), Rob Simmons (R-Conn.), Joe Pitts

(R-Pa.) and Sue Kelly (R-N.Y) also paid out “win” or election bonuses following the November elections.

Rep. Bill Lipinski (D-Ill.) used campaign funds to hand out more than $1,400 in Christmas gifts to four staffers from his re-election effort.

The payments were disclosed by PoliticalMoneyLine, a campaign finance watchdog group.

Morella, who was defeated by now-Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D) in the November midterm elections, shelled out $15,000 to longtime campaign aide Mary Ann Estey in “back payroll” on Dec. 17. Six other Morella staffers received another $20,000 in similar payments on the same date, including $7,000 that went to Carolyn Milkey, Morella’s treasurer.

The payments were detailed in campaign finance documents filed by Morella’s re-election campaign, formally known as “Friends of Connie Morella for Congress,” with the Federal Election Commission.

Morella, Estey and Milkey did not return several calls seeking comment.

Garrett, who won his seat in a third run for Congress, paid $25,500 in bonuses to eight campaign aides in December. The largest payment, $5,500, went to Evan Kozlow, Garrett’s campaign manager.

“It was pretty simple. When someone joined the campaign, the agreement was if we won, they’d be awarded a win bonus,” said Steve O’Halloran, Garrett’s press secretary. O’Halloran himself received $3,000 from Garrett. “It was pretty straightforward.”

Simmons, now in his second term, gave out $16,000 in bonuses to his media consultant following his 2000 election to the House. This cycle, Simmons paid just under $8,900 in bonuses to four different people.

Pitts reported $6,000 in election bonuses, Kelly cut checks for $6,000, and Kleczka handed out $5,000.

The bonuses handed out by these lawmakers are not extraordinary by recent standards, and their use appears to be growing more prevalent, especially among high-priced consultants, as it helps campaigns keep costs down.

Rep. Dennis Rehberg (R-Mont.), for instance, doled out nearly $100,000 in bonuses after he won election to the House in 2000, including $50,000 to one media consultant and $25,000 to another firm.

Meanwhile, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg paid $300,000 to a consultant who helped engineer his Big Apple victory in 2001. Bloomberg spent $75 million to win that race.