That's what Dick Lugar has spent to build what may be the largest phone-banking operation ever for a state-wide race in Indiana. And the number above is likely lower than the total cost.
Beginning in May of last year, Dick Lugar began sending checks to Suite 337; 6348 N. Milwaukee Ave.; Chicago, IL 60646. That's the address of a UPS Store and the suite number (337) appears to be the box address of two companies. These campaign disbursements were for "office equipment" according to the Senator's FEC filings. Here are the 21 expenditures that I found:
You can check these expenditures yourself in Lugar's FEC reports--please notify me of any omissions or errors.
The data is a little odd. There are multiple expenditures on the same day, months with as many as four payments, months without any payments, a huge range of expenditures ($9.77 to $20,747.54), and seemingly two different names on the checks--the first check went to "Victory Solutions" while the other twenty payments were to "Sherman Consulting".
I believe the Victory Solutions in question is the Ohio-based Victory Solutions specializing in phone banks and Voice Over IP (VoIP) for conservative campaigns and causes. Sherman Consulting is a Chicago-based conservative consulting company which lists VoIP and Telecom support among its core competencies. I suspect that Sherman was the "systems integrator" on the phone bank build-out and Victory was their subcontractor providing OEM phone banking equipment, VoIP boxes, and their custom software. If that's the case, then why are the payments to Sherman Consulting listed as "office equipment"? Wasn't Lugar buying "consulting services" with some of those dollars? Is Sherman a reseller of Victory's phone banking system? If it's really "office equipment" that Lugar bought, why so many expenditures?
Indiana does not allow political robocalls. That means a campaign needs hordes of volunteers to pick up the phone and call people (if the campaign is going to get their message out that way). Now, Fox News reported yesterday that the Lugar campaign has made 1.2 million phone calls. If you're making that many calls, then you'll want a phone system that can handle volume efficiently.
That's where Victory Solutions comes in. Victory Solutions has developed the technology to automate phone banking:
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — After running a big chunk of George Bush's grass-roots effort in Ohio in 2004, it struck Shannon Burns that it must be possible to make all those thousands of phone calls more efficiently. So he invented a way.
The automated phone system Burns designed, called Victory VOIP, has allowed volunteers for Bush's would-be successor, Republican presidential nominee John McCain, to make thousands of calls to voters in the time it used to take to make hundreds. Burns' Cleveland-based company, Victory Solutions LLC, is now working for dozens of campaigns from federal to local in 16 states."Furthermore, Victory's system lets volunteers make calls from their home. With a computer and your home phone, you're able to connect to Lugar's central phone bank through Victory's VoIP device. The system will call the next number on the list for you. It's a great bit of technology.
Nonetheless, it's odd that Dick Lugar sent $100k to a UPS box in Chicago with payments to two different companies one of which is based in Ohio. That's a lot of money for "office equipment." Why not find a Victory Solutions reseller in Indiana or buy direct?
Update: Thanks to Smitty at the OtherMcCain for the link!