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Besides haircuts, what do candidates spend money on?

Walter Shapiro writes on Salon.com:
With a record-shattering $150 million already raised by the presidential candidates, the 2008 election cycle is shaping up to be a Gilded Age for the political class. Whoever wins the White House, an elite group of ad-makers, strategists, pollsters, direct-mail mavens and fundraising arrangers will share the spoils of victory and the just as lucrative swag of defeat.

All this brings us to a dirty little secret of politics -- the murky financial arrangements between the top consultants and the campaigns they serve. The Federal Election Commission does not require detailed breakdowns of consultant expenses from the candidates. And the campaigns refuse to voluntarily release this information. The result is that political givers end up knowing far less about how wisely their money was spent than if they had donated the cash to a charity.

Back in February, Mitt Romney was the first member of the Class of '08 to hit TV sets in the early primary and caucus states, with a 60-second biographical spot in which the former Massachusetts governor solemnly declared, "This is not a time for more talk and dithering in Washington. It's a time for action." When it came time to file its first-quarter reports with the FEC, which were due last week, the campaign dutifully chronicled more than $1.8 million in payments to National Media -- the Alexandria, Va., firm in which Romney media advisor Alex Castellanos is a partner.

But there is no way of knowing from the FEC report what portion of this money was used to purchase TV time, how much paid for production costs or how much went directly to Castellanos as a fee. To raise that $1.8 million required a minimum of 782 donors, since the maximum individual contribution for the primaries is $2,300. But what these political givers got for their money is considered confidential information by the Romney campaign. -- Are political consultants getting rich off your money? | Salon.com

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