Businessman John Kingston’s idea of a campaign kickoff seems to be more along the lines of what Thurston Howell III (the Yankee elite character of Gilligan’s Island fame) would prefer than the normal grunts of Massachusetts politics.
Such introductory events are typically bare bones, as campaigns avoid spending cash on fêting volunteers and supporters at the outset. But the Republican’s most recent campaign finance report confirmed his October event was top shelf.
The bill for food was $30,000 from Gourmet Caterers, according his filing with the Federal Election Commission. That’s about $75 per person for the 400 supporters who attended his launch to challenge US Senator Elizabeth Warren.
And for any Kingston guests having a transportation issue, they got special limo bus rides, costing the campaign about $4,500.
And where does Kingston — who has injected over $3 million into his campaign accounts — hold the candidacy launch? It wasn’t the usual political spots: community centers, public landmarks, a local restaurant.
He instead chose one of the state’s most glittering Democratic mausoleums — the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the Senate, which cost a $10,000 fee and required the campaign to use its catering company.
By those measures, his GOP rivals were definitely déclassé in their choice of venues and refreshments.
State Representative Geoff Diehl’s August event was at the VFW in his hometown of Whitman, where, his aides said, 600 people attended and they spent less than $2,000 on the event. His campaign offered a few Italian dishes and cake from Stop and Shop, and aides said supporters had to pay $50 to get in.
Longtime GOP activist Beth Lindstrom spent about $2,500 for her kickoff in October at a nonprofit center in the Seaport district. She served bagels, her aides said.
So how does Kingston’s campaign react when asked about the optics of the fancy event? They are not running away from the image, saying it was a “historic night” for Republican kickoffs in Massachusetts because of the size of the crowd (the Diehl folks would quibble with that). The Kingston campaign argues all the display of wealth demonstrates is that the candidate has the deep pockets to amount credible campaign against US Senator Elizabeth Warren.
“This entirely underscores the point that John is the best candidate to defeat Warren in November and the candidate with the resources, record, and rhetoric to win, because while he is out prosecuting the case against Senator Warren and offering a vision for the future, the media and his opponents are left complaining about his refreshments served at a successful event held over four months ago,’’ said his spokesman Jon Conradi.
He also defended the limo buses, saying Kingston wanted to help his supporters get to what he claimed was the most “historic event” in state GOP history.
And why the Kennedy institute?
“It showcased John’s willing to take his campaign to every part of the state, including a place named after the Liberal Lion,’’ Conradi said.Frank Phillips can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.