Still in debt, Flemming plans another run

Today’s fundraiser has 2 goals in mind: pay off campaign loans and gear up for 2014 election

bshannon@theolympian.comApril 19, 2013 

After Republican Stan Flemming of University Place lost in the 2012 primary race for Washington’s new 10th Congressional District, he still owed money on loans he took out to finance his campaign. Fast forward 81/2 months later: Flemming is holding a campaign fundraiser this evening at the Tacoma Country and Golf Club to retire that debt and build up money for another run in 2014.

Federal Election Commission filings show that Flemming’s 2012 campaign still owes at least $50,700 to a private Beverly Hills, Calif., lender, Spanky LLC. An email announcing Flemming’s 6 p.m. buffet-dinner event says the goal is to pay off campaign debts and to finance another run:

“As we all wind down from the 2012 elections, it may seem untimely to start thinking about 2014 elections … but, in order to move forward, we must. Candidates are holding fundraisers and events to kick off campaigns for the 2014 election cycle already. It is time for us to pull together to move forward to 2014!”

Flemming did not return telephone calls left with his campaign office Thursday. But if he is running again, it will be against a well-heeled Democratic Congressman Denny Heck, a politician-turned-businessman who won fairly easily in the Democrat-leaning 10th District last year. The 10th includes most of Thurston County, including Olympia, and radiates north to include Shelton, University Place and Puyallup.

Last time around, Heck raised $2.05 million and spent $2.02 million for the primary and general elections – or more than 20 times the $84,309 spent by Flemming, who finished third in a field of six primary-election candidates. Ultimately Heck beat Republican finalist Dick Muri of Steilacoom in November to win his first term in the new district, which Washington was awarded after the 2010 census.

As of March 31 reports on file at the FEC, Heck had raised $129,837 — roughly three-quarters of it from campaign committees — and has just more than $150,000 cash on hand for his re-election campaign. He also is carrying more than $350,000 in debt from personal loans he made to his congressional campaigns in 2010 and 2012. By contrast, Flemming reported $6,468 cash on hand and a debt of $54,950 from the loans he hasn’t paid off.

Flemming is a physician and retired high-ranking Army officer from University Place, and as he struggled to raise funds last year, he resorted to unorthodox financing to boost his fundraising totals.

He took out unsecured loans worth $200,700 from a private source — Spanky LLC, a private investment group belonging to Sherry Hackett, widow of comedian Buddy Hackett.

Although Flemming’s campaign always insisted the loans were legal, the borrowed money was not from a bank and it raised eyebrows from national campaign-finance experts during the campaign. One issue was whether the loan should have been characterized as a contribution that would have violated campaign-contribution limits. FEC officials declined to comment about Flemming’s loans specifically, but the agency’s rules say that loans from banks can exceed contribution limits and they make a few other exceptions for brokerages that extend lines of credit, which Flemming’s campaign claimed to qualify for.

Flemming later repaid $150,000 of the borrowed money. The remaining $50,700 borrowed from Spanky is still owing — plus accrued interest on both loans. Papers filed with the FEC by Flemming say both carried 8 percent interest rates and both were to be fully paid by Dec. 31.

David Loftus, who is Sherry Hackett’s husband, said Thursday that he has extended many loans recently, and he has no doubt Flemming will pay this one back.

Heck told The Olympian’s editorial board in late March that he’d just had a fundraiser but that he was resisting a shift into campaigning and raising money so soon after taking office.

“I can’t quite get there yet,’’ Heck said.

Brad Shannon: 360-753-1688 @BradShannon2

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