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Breaking: He’s Back: Sestak Raises $460K in Q1

Joe Sestak headshotIn a below-the-radar effort, former Congressman and Admiral Joe Sestak raised over $460,000 in the first three months of 2013. It’s the first firm indication that he seeks to run for office in the near future.

All of the cash came from individual donors – primarily longtime Sestak supporters – most of whom contributed the federal maximum of $5,200. Almost all of the money was reported as having come in during the final two weeks of March, much of it on Sunday, March 31.

He also changed the name of his campaign committee from “Sestak for Senate” to “Friends of Joe Sestak” – though it is still designated as a U.S. Senate campaign committee.

PoliticsPA was unable to reach Sestak immediately for comment.

The Federal Elections Commission report, first posted on April 20, covers January 1 through March 31. Sestak had just over $8,600 at the end of 2012 and spent just over $10,000 on operating expenses in Q1.

The money he raised could be used for a U.S. Senate run, a campaign for his former congressional seat (PA-7), or could be transferred into a state campaign account should he choose to run for Governor.

Sestak has been coy about his political plans, telling reporters over and over that he intends to return to public service but offering few clues about which office. He has maintained a public presence via national television interviews and speaking appearances statewide.

Recently, on news that Sestak had accepted a part-time teaching position at Carnegie Mellon University, speculation surfaced that he may change his voter registration to Allegheny County. Such a move would help him against a crowded Democratic gubernatorial field from southeast Pa.

But he has denied suggestions of re-registering. A voter registration records request on April 12 showed that Sestak was not registered in Allegheny County at that time.

Sestak, 61, served in the U.S. Navy for over 30 years before his election to Congress in 2006.

In addition to his strong resume, Sestak has repeatedly demonstrated a strong ability to raise money. He brought in $3.3 million for his first race, $3.9 million for his re-election in 2008, and $8.6 million for his 2010 run for U.S. Senate. He defeated Arlen Specter in the Democratic primary, but lost to Pat Toomey in the general election.

18 Responses

  1. Former Lower Merion Constable Eric Bradway is running for Governor on the Democratic Ticket

  2. Dan-
    1) Well, I’ve know both Joe and Bill too and saw how they operated in the early days in 2006. The story is 100% true. This story is well known among those in political circles and former staffers in the Delco area at the time. I’ve even spoken to a subsequent employer of the girl who knew the story because it was her reason for leaving Sestak’s employ.

    2) Sestak pays below the standard for campaign staff and DOES treat his staffers like crap. Campaigns are practically volunteer efforts, with most workers being young intern-types looking for some work experience to put on a resume. My beef with the campaign staff is more how they are treated, than how they are paid.

    3) However, for his CONGRESSIONAL staff, he DID pay many of them less than minimum hourly wage. The staff had a very high turnover rate (one of the highest on capitol hill) and were verbally abused by Sestak on a regular basis. If you haven’t actually see Sestak screaming like a maniac and strutting about like he’s dressing down a sailor in a bad movie, then you haven’t seen the real Joe Sestak. Those of us that have seen it first hand understand what a psycho he is.

    4) Joe’s great at keeping in touch with staffers who haven’t figured him out. It’s a cheap source of labor that he likes to keep at the ready. He needs to because of his burn-rate with all those people who’ve seen his dark side and will never work for him again.

    5) During his 2010 primary campaign, he showed old campaign video from 2006 of his daughter at the height of his illness. This was exploitative, and friends of mine (who had a disabled kid) and who were leaning toward him voted changed their minds and against him in disgust.

    The only conclusion I can draw is that you are too young, naive and sheltered from the real Sestak to know what you are talking about. Plenty of us have seen the other side of him. His refusals to help supporters when it wasn’t in his interests. His refusals to help with fundraising and treat people who couldn’t get him to the next level as worthless and beneath him.

    When asked in Sept 2007 if Joe would help Delco Dems with fundraising, his brother Richard responded: “Why should he? It’s not his contest. No one here did anything for him.” This was literally two minutes after Joe finished a speech in front about a 50-80 Delco Dems at an event in which Joe thanked them getting him elected and saying, “It wasn’t my victory. It was your victory”.

    Dan, the bottom line is that Sestak’s a two-face liar (like many politicians), and people like you haven’t seen the “man behind the curtain” yet. Once you do, you stop believing that Sestak is a “wizard”, and you see him for the charlatan that he’s always been.

  3. On the staff stuff, I was staff on that campaign and I’ve been a paid political staffer for five years across five different states. Let me break this down for you:

    1) If you break down the salary of nearly any staffer on ANY campaign in the United States by the hour, that person will likely be paid less than minimum wage. Why?

    For most days of a primary or general election campaign campaign, staff works at least 12 hours a day, seven days a week–if the campaign is standard/competent–i.e. 9am-9pm. During “GOTV”–the get out the vote period–which runs between the Friday prior to the election to the close of polls, that increases to 20+ hours per day. The going rate for a paid staffer on a campaign is $2-2,500/mo for a person not in regional or senior staff positions. The typical pay for higher-end paid staff on a campaign is $5,000/mo. If you do the math, both of those fall well below minimum wage.

    Now, it’s true that staffers on that campaign got paid less than the going rate of $2,500. Most of us where paid, after withholding, around $850/mo. However, there were other benefits/forms of compensation that are left out by Mr. Diano.

    The biggest one is that almost every staffer on the campaign had supporter housing–supporter housing is housing donated to the campaign by supporters of the campaign–most of them in ridiculously nice houses (i.e. most of us had an additional, unaccounted for, $500-1000/mo in compensation–bringing the average monthly compensation up to somewhere in the $1,350-1,850 ballpark). Supporter housing is always welcome, but NEVER guaranteed. If you are working for a campaign that is not a presidential campaign or a top-tier state or congressional race, you are likely not getting supporter housing. It’s a legitimate thing to take into account when talking about staff compensation on that campaign.

    We also had decent health care benefits, which brought total compensation up to about $2,000/mo for most of us. Again, health care benefits are somewhat rare, even for Democratic campaigns.

    That means that SFS ultimately compensated staffers on a scale that puts them on the lower end of average for political campaigns. Not great, but not as bad as Mr. Diano would like others to believe, either.

    As for the claims of abusive behavior on the part of Joe Sestak and Bill Walsh, I call bullshit. I’ve met and conversed with both Mr. Sestak and Mr. Walsh at length. I have a particularly hard time imagining Bill saying something blatantly sexist and demeaning to a staffer and an even harder time imagining Joe tolerating that.

    I have a particularly hard time imagining this because Joe, unlike pretty much ALL other candidates, actually keeps in touch with the staff and keeps his promises to us about returning the favor for our support under less than ideal circumstances.

    He’s sent us cards on the holidays, he’s been openly available to me while I’ve been working with a foundation for children with cancer, he’s raised money for a staffer who ran for the House last cycle–the guy legitimately cares about things like loyalty and honor.

    Also, I take great issue with the way Mr. Diano portrays how Joe treats Alex. He does not use his daughter as a prop. Joe mentions Alex when he talks about health care because, believe it or not, his experiences with her actually inform his positions on health care. I’ve been the kid with cancer in such a family and Joe and I have had many exchanges about cancer. Joe has the positions on these issues most parents who have gone through that have, for the reason most of them have them. The accusation that her story is something he flogs purely for political value makes me inexpressibly angry.

  4. Is there a “Friends of McCord” account that recently filed? What is he up too? How much money does he have on hand?

    To this point… Wolf $10 million, Schwartz $3 million, Sestak $400K, McCord ??

  5. Update: Upon further review I did find a few (very few) entries in Feb that would have just covered the expenses before they ran out. These were deeper in the report. So, they didn’t go negative before the donations arrived (but it was fairly close to zero).

    It’s still kind of odd that there are so many entries for Sunday March 31st. There are plenty of entries for Saturday March 30th, so they got the mail that day. The timing of all the donations is still very strange.

    Short of telephone calls, there are almost no fundraising expenses in the report . There’s $60, but that was the first week in January.

    $1165 in health care payments for under $300 of payroll (with his brother as only person on payroll) is extremely odd.

  6. Gloria-
    The “criticisms” I lists are ones that I hear people say repeatedly at political events, and they come from former staffers and friends of former staffers. Attend some events and listen to the stories. I had one staffer tell me she quit after she was told by Bill Walsh to shut up and that she “was hired for her looks not her opinions”. That’s source enough for me. As paying staff less than minimum wage, that’s documented in the public record. Staff salaries are posted at open secrets, and Sestak has said in interviews that the staff is required to work 70+ hours a week. Math’s pretty simple on that.

    The reasons for his dismissal from the Navy have been reported in the news, originally in the Navy Times. No one buys the “story” that he was pushed out for his budget opinions. The walkouts and turnover of his congressional and campaign staffs are completely consistent with the reasons given for his removal from command. He’s a bad/abusive boss.

    The entrees on the FEC report state that the money was collected for 2014. Now, if he’s planning to transfer the money, that’s allowed. However, is he allowed to raise money for Gov from a federal account? Also, he’s been spending his (federal) money as well. If the money has been spent for a PA Gov race, instead of a federal race, that might be an issue/problem.

    I haven’t reviewed the full report, but my cursory examination shows that he spend about $10,000 prior to the earliest donation (that I saw so first) on March 15th. But, he had less than $9,000 at beginning of reporting period. So, if March 15th is the first donation, then there may be an accounting “irregularity” of spending more than was available.

    I, for one, don’t believe that he received that many donations (particular out-of-state) on Sunday March 31st. I would expect a steady stream over the two weeks or so that donations supposedly arrived.

    Also, the only “employee” appears to be Joe’s brother, Richard, who receives less than $90/month. However, there are health-care benefits being paid out in excess of this. So, is Joe using his campaign funds to pay for his brother’s health care costs? This certainly looks fishy and has been going on for several of the past quarters. I wonder if the FEC has a legal opinion on the matter as to whether this is legitimate use of funds?

  7. David Diano:

    Every penny raised under the federal contribution limits, whether designated as primary or general election contributions, may be transferred to a Pennsylvania committee (if he chooses to run for Governor). He didn’t need to establish a Pennsylvania committee (that takes 5 minutes to do) or even change the name of his committee (he would need to create a different Pennsylvania committee if he runs for Governor) to raise money, whether for a 2014 bid for Governor or a 2016 bid for Senate.

    With each post on Joe Sestak, your personal hatred for him gets more out of control and discredits any arguments you attempt. When the majority of your criticisms are nothing more than your own personal conclusory opinions (e.g., “he’s a fraud,” he’s incredibly cheap,” “he treats his staff like crap”) rather than sourced or verifiable facts, you lose credibility.

    Please learn the difference between opinions and facts. It is fine to have opinions, but please provide factual sources leading to those conclusions (if you are going to make a conclusory accusation such as “he’s a fraud,” which has specific meaning, please provide sources or verifiable information for the fraudulent behavior). If you can’t or won’t, stop pretending your opinions are facts, and stop criticizing others for having opinions different from your own.

    Thank you.

  8. BTW, Sestak has a hidden contribution page on his website, that is not available from the home page. The page is new, because it has the new “Friends of Joe Sestak” name on it, instead of “Sestak for Senate”

    However, when you fill in some dummy data, you get error:

    it is not possible to order from the store at this time.
    Contact the merchant for further information (error 1002)

  9. Opportunity-
    The worst criticism is not that he works too hard. That’s actually the only compliment he ever gets. The criticisms have been:

    – he treats is staff like crap
    – he pays his staff less than minimum wage
    – he’s completely dishonest and breaks behind-closed-doors promises
    – he’s selfish and will sabotage other Dems on the ticket to promote himself
    – he voted with Bush (twice) for Iraq War funding, without any accountability, in direct violation of his campaign promises
    – he’s psychotic, and anger management issues, and is a sadist who gets off yelling at and belittling his underlings
    – he voted for telecom immunity and warrantless wiretaps
    – he uses his daughter and her illness like a prop
    – he’s no more a resident of PA than Santorum was, and really live in Virginia
    – he was kicked out of the Navy for his abusive behavior toward his staff
    – he use the whole job-gate thing to blackmail the President into back off support of Spector
    – he’s incredibly cheap
    – he’s a fraud

  10. Sestak is an enigma. He is the hardest read of all the candidates out there. I go back and forth with my beliefs if he will run for Guv. Let’s face it. He either runs for Guv or Senate.

    Would he run for Guv? I don’t know. It will be a crowded primary but he has the highest name ID of all. But, Wolf has $10 million and Schwartz has $3 million with McCord having the ability to raise that kind of money.

    For the 2016 Senate run, how does the Manchin-Toomey bill impact this election? Will suburban Philly forgive Toomey for being the hard line right winger because he sponsored this bill? More importantly, no one else is in play for this seat. Toomey and Sestak are the only names I hear associated with this race. I know it is 4 years out but I hear no rumors.

  11. If the worst criticism of Joe Sestsk is that he works too hard then he remains a serious force to be reckoned with and any Republican should be concerned, especially since he is sitting on a big pile of money. Fingers crossed he takes on and takes out Keith Rothfus. Keith is clueless, he never should have won that seat and Joe could thump him easily.

  12. Sestak may be a bright guy in person, but has always seemed
    lost, awkward on camera. Not sure what the big deal is about him.

  13. Maybe his donors didn’t care what he is running for. Joe’s an impressive dude; he came within less than two points of beating Toomey, and that was without help from the Clintons or Rendell. The main criticism I hear about him is that he works too hard and works his staff too hard.

  14. Sestak tried doing this under the radar. If he had created PA committee, that cat would have been out of the bag sooner (before I spotted it).

    Sestak is obviously still trying to “have it both ways” by keeping the money in the federal account. $460,000 is plenty to keep him operating before the race heats up and all the players are in.

    As most of the donations are for both primary and general, Sestak really only has half the cash on hand for the Primary.

    So, $230k to $250k, compared to Schwartz with $3 million. Schwartz transfered her money and is “all in”. Sestak is still posturing.

    But, any good reporter MUST ask Sestak to clarify why the donor entries say: Receipt for 2014.

    Don’t let him weasel out with a non-answer. Question: when you called donors, what did to tell them the money was for?

    Question: how did you receive out of state donations on a Sunday (and very last day of reporting period)? When did donations actually arrive, postmarked?

    Question: how can anyone believe you when you claim you haven’t decided what office you are seeking? Honest answer would have been, “I decided, but won’t tell you.” But, of course, that wasn’t answer he gave reporters.

    Anyway, the cat is out of the bag, ahead of any planned announcement.

  15. That’s weird. Indicates to me that Sestak doesn’t know what office he’s running for. If he’s asking for big checks, and wants to run for governor, why not set up a state account and raise unlimitedly?

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