The sudden surge of money from sources outside his campaign has been quite the boost for Democratic senate contender Rick Weiland. Given the "cry poor" theme of his campaign for most of the year, Weiland's sudden good fortune in the form of our bombardment of an expensive array of anti-Mike Rounds ads has rankled quite a few folks. The ads are produced and paid for by national sources looking to boost Democratic chances in the race for control of the U.S. Senate, and they've brought out shouts of "hypocrisy!" from the opposition. Why? Because until lately, Weiland's shoestring budget was consistent with his theme of "taking it back" from the well-financed establishment--mainly Republicans--who Rick's campaign has pictured as the rich and powerful folk who run the country to their liking.
Now suddenly, Rick's cash-laden supporters make him look like he holds his own among the rich, if yet to be powerful. Those who react by declaring Weiland to be a "hypocrite" have a political need for doing so, but I really think their logic falls short on this one. To be sure, the Weiland campaign has never been particularly well-received by me, and I doubt that he would be seriously contending for the seat if Republican Mike Rounds' awful handling of the EB-5 scandal hadn't hobbled what seemed to be his cakewalk into the U.S. Senate. Weakened as the Rounds campaign has been by that noxious reminder of his flawed governorship, national Democratic and liberal organizations have seized the chance to give Weiland's race a financial boost, and the millions have poured in.
Does this make Weiland a hypocrite? No, it just makes him another participant in realpolitik. Recall that in 2013 Weiland tried to get the Rounds campaign to join him in a pledge to cap all campaign contributions at $100.00. Rounds had just announced plans to raise $9 million for the campaign, no doubt pouring on the financial intimidation early on. Freaked out as he probably was, Weiland countered with that pledge idea, likely knowing full well that Rounds' people would dismiss it out of hand. Thus was born Weiland's populist I-ain't-got-a-barrel-of-money campaign.
Now that big money is coming in--independently of the campaign, it's important to note--Rick is being called on to reject it. He's already made public requests for the money to stop, but, because of the outsiders' very independence, Weiland has no power to influence those that are spending it. As I understand it, campaign finance laws exclude any conversations between Weiland's campaign and those outside sources, and unless proven otherwise, I believe we have to assume that there are no under-the-table contacts either. I really don't see much in the way of hypocrisy here. Groups that want Weiland to win--or, as I see it, are more intent on Rounds losing--are free to bash Rounds at will, which is what most of them seem to be doing. Rounds and his mismanaged campaign, so far unable to gain support from much more than a third of the electorate, are probably more responsible for these outsiders pouring in than anything Weiland has said or done.