LANSING (AP) — As Democrats continued to wrangle over what the party should look like to ensure victory in 2008, a fight has broken out between the Democratic National Committee and state Democratic officials over how DNC money was spent on John Kerry’s 2004 race in Michigan.
Michigan Democratic Chairman Mark Brewer has been asked by a top DNC official to allow the party’s books to be audited, but has turned down the request.
“We don’t see a need for it. But we’re happy to answer any questions that they may have,” Brewer said. “There was nothing wrong that was done. That’s why there was no need for an audit.”
DNC spokesman Jano Cabrera said the DNC wants more information because its donors want to know how the $8 million was spent.
“When people donate to the DNC, they expect that money will be used wisely. That is why it is our policy to make sure there’s financial accountability for those funds,” Cabrera said.
Brewer said the DNC originally gave the Michigan Coordinated Campaign around $7 million leading up to the Nov. 2 election, but that the campaign had counted on getting $8 million.
“We told them that they were short on the commitment of money that they’d made to Michigan,” Brewer said Thursday. “We needed the money to complete the program, which we had built based on their promises of additional funding.”
Brewer said he does not remember how much money he requested, but Democratic sources in Washington close to the situation said Brewer told the DNC that the coordinated campaign was at least $2.5 million in the hole. They also said he threatened to shut down the campaign — and cost Kerry Michigan’s 17 electoral votes — if he did not get the money.
Brewer said he never threatened to shut down the campaign.
“We thought they had promised more than they had sent,” he said. “We resolved it by them chipping in more money, and we also raised more money. And we went on to win the state by three-and-a-half points.”
The DNC ended up sending $1 million more, and Brewer estimates the state party raised $2 million to $3 million on its own over the course of the campaign.
He added that the party has filed its campaign records with the Federal Elections Commission, where the information is a matter of public record. It is unclear if those records would show the details DNC officials want.
It is unlikely the flap will derail Brewer’s attempts to be elected state chairman at the party’s Feb. 19 state convention in Detroit. Brewer was party chairman from 1995 until 2003, when he became the party’s executive chairman in a shared power arrangement with Chairman Melvin “Butch” Hollowell. Hollowell left that post last year.
Brewer also is president of the Association of Democratic State Chairs. He is up for re-election on Feb. 10, two days before DNC members elect a new chairman.
Brewer said the complaints against him are really an attempt to tarnish the Michigan director of the Kerry/Edwards campaign, Donnie Fowler, in his campaign for DNC chairman.
“It’s my belief that this is nothing more than a smear against Donnie Fowler, and the only reason this is being raised is because he’s become a candidate for DNC chair,” Brewer said. “If this was such an important issue, why did we not hear about it for over two and a half months, until Donnie becomes a serious candidate for DNC chair?”
Fowler’s bid appeared to lose momentum Monday after the Association of State Democratic Chairs endorsed former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who now appears to have the best chance to win the DNC chairmanship. The association’s executive committee had voted the day before to recommend endorsing Fowler.
Brewer said he did not vote with the committee or participate in Monday’s vote.
Fowler declined to return phone calls yesterday. But he issued a statement recently in which he tried to distance himself from the Michigan campaign spending dispute, saying that he and other Kerry/Edwards state directors did not manage or set up tracking processes for campaign budgets because of federal laws.
But Fowler legally could have participated in discussions about how the DNC money should be spend and would have been aware of how the DNC money was being handled in Michigan, especially since the Kerry campaign office shared quarters with the coordinated campaign.