Shop Talk: McMahon’s Money

Posted December 16, 2009 at 6:16pm

There’s some serious money to be made in Connecticut this cycle — where a blockbuster race to unseat Sen. Chris Dodd (D) is unfolding.

[IMGCAP(1)]Former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon (R) is paying her campaign manager, David Cappiello, a salary of about $280,000 — possibly a record for campaigns in Connecticut.

It’s not unheard of for well-seasoned campaign talent to make top dollar or receive large bonuses. Presidential campaigns and statewide races in expensive states such as California have paid top advisers salaries in the high six figures. But several local Republicans commented that Cappiello’s salary is likely one of the highest ever earned for a campaign in the Nutmeg State, and online records show it is almost twice the amount that managers from other Republican campaigns are making.

“The Connecticut Senate race is one of the highest-profile races in the country, and he brings to this campaign an extensive network of relationships, an intimate knowledge of the state and substantial political experience,— said a McMahon campaign official, who confirmed Cappiello’s pre-tax salary.

As a political newcomer, McMahon must navigate Connecticut’s nominating system — an archaic process that involves wooing hundreds of local delegates for their votes at the May convention. Cappiello, a former state Senator and well-known name in local politics, ran for Congress in 2008 in the 5th district, but lost to Rep. Christopher Murphy (D) by 20 points. Among those also seeking the GOP nod is former Rep. Rob Simmons, who was the establishment favorite early on.

McMahon had put $3.5 million of her own fortune into her campaign by the end of September, and she has said she could put up to $50 million into her bid. Federal Election Commission records showed McMahon funded about $135,000 in political consulting through in-kind donations from herself through September, but salaries and other disbursements were not noted in her third-quarter report.

Simmons’ campaign manager, Jim Barnett, earns a salary of about $93,500 after taxes, according to FEC reports. He earns about $144,000 before taxes, according to the campaign. Dodd’s campaign manager, Jay Howser, earns about $133,100 after taxes, according to online public records.

My Murphy. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has tapped a former aide, Deirdre Murphy, to join their press shop and work under Communications Director Eric Schultz.

Murphy most recently worked as a press secretary for Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.). Like Schultz, Murphy is a veteran of former DSCC Chairman Charles Schumer’s (N.Y.) extensive press operation.

This is Murphy’s second tour of duty at the DSCC; she was the deputy press secretary in the 2006 cycle when Schumer was chairman.

Doctor, Doctor, Doctor. Rep. John Fleming’s (R-La.) communications director, Amy Jones, is leaving her post to run Dr. Scott DesJarlais’ (R) campaign against Rep. Lincoln Davis (D-Tenn.).

Jones must have something for doctor candidates, because Fleming was a family physician and DesJarlais is known among friends and colleagues as “Dr. D— for his medical practice.

Before Jones worked for Fleming, she helped elected Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.), a cardiovascular surgeon, in 2004 and served as his communications and district director in 2005.

A Crafty Operation. St. Lucie County Commissioner Chris Craft (D) has upgraded his campaign operation, including hiring Jonathan Ducote to be his campaign manager. Craft is running against Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.).

Ducote comes to the campaign from North Carolina, where he worked on the state Treasurer Janet Cowell’s (D) successful and competitive 2008 primary and general election campaigns.

New Finance Director Nicole Lang most recently served as deputy finance director for White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel when he served in the House.

General consultant David Goldenberg of Central Strategies, a former top aide to Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.), has also come on board.

My Boy Bill. Former Sen. John Sununu’s (R-N.H.) chief of staff and longtime campaign manager has joined businessman Bill Binnie’s (R) campaign for Senate in the Granite State.

Former top aide Paul Collins, who ran Sununu’s successful bid in 2002 and his losing effort in 2008, will take over as a senior political strategist at the end of the year, according to the New Hampshire Union Leader.

Binnie has never run for office but has considerable personal financial resources. Attorney Ovide Lamontagne, the 1996 GOP gubernatorial nominee, and former Attorney General Kelly Ayotte are also running for the GOP nomination.

Take Me to Higher Grounds. Stones’ Phones Vice President Jessica Grounds is leaving the Democratic firm after almost six years to become the executive director of Running Start, an organization that encourages young women to run for office.

Grounds was one of the original founders of Running Start and serves as the president of one of its sister organizations, the Women Under Forty Political Action Committee. She has worked on the campaigns of Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.) and California Congressional candidate Francine Busby (D).

Good Griffin. Attorney Tim Griffin (R) has tapped the GOP firm On Message Inc. to advise his bid for Arkansas’ 2nd Congressional district. Wes Anderson will do the polling, while Brad Todd will do the media for Griffin’s campaign against Rep. Vic Snyder (D).

Welcome to the Family Business. Pennsylvania Republican campaign veteran Ray Zaborney is joining forces with a familiar face at his firm, State Street Strategies. Zaborney has tapped his wife, fellow GOP operative Jennifer Holman Zaborney, to be a new partner at the firm’s political consulting, communications and government affairs practices.

Jennifer Holman Zaborney has been a senior adviser to the state Senate GOP campaign committee for the past five years, and her father, Mark Holman, served as former Gov. Tom Ridge’s (R) chief of staff and top aide for almost two decades. In addition to her role at State Street Strategies, Jennifer Holman Zaborney will also launch a strategic fundraising firm, JHZ Consulting.

Ray Zaborney has worked with top Republicans in the Keystone State Senate, as well as for Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) and state party organizations in Pennsylvania, Maine and Virginia. In the 2006 cycle, Zaborney ran former Pittsburgh Steelers legend Lynn Swann’s (R) unsuccessful bid to unseat Gov. Ed Rendell (D).

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