Mar 30, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Maryland Republican returns to consultants she trashed

Kimberly Klacik is seen on a Baltimore street.
Kimberly Klacik. Photo: J. Countess/Getty Images

A 2020 Republican congressional candidate who accused her consultants of extracting huge sums while she bombed at the polls is now leaning on them to finance her new political venture.

Why it matters: Maryland's Kim Klacik raised millions last year but lost her race by more than 40 points. It was a cautionary tale for donors lured by polished fundraising appeals into backing dead-end candidates. But her renewed work with one of those vendors shows how lucrative such fundraising practices can be.

What's new: Klacik is a Baltimore-area Republican whose longshot 2020 bid and viral TV commercial attracted widespread attention on the right. She's now working with the GOP digital marketing firm Olympic Media to raise money for her new PAC, Red Renaissance.

  • A fundraising email for the group sent this month declared Klacik "rattled Baltimore’s corrupt Democrat political machine to their core … and now, I’m taking the fight nationwide."
  • The email was sent to a list associated with BizPac Review, a media property Olympic acquired last year.
  • Klacik also has "joined with" BizPac to promote the website in paid social media advertisements.

Between the lines: Just weeks ago, Klacik was publicly hammering Olympic for ostensibly fleecing her congressional campaign.

  • The campaign raised about $8.3 million yet paid $3.7 million to Olympic to promote and fundraise for her candidacy.
  • “I actually lost sleep over this,” Klacik told the Washington Post of those payments. “These companies — it’s a racket. Unfortunately, this is why we ask people to send us checks directly to our P.O. Box.”

Olympic CEO Ryan Coyne defended his firm's work, saying it "raised and netted millions of dollars for the Klacik campaign — helping turn her into a household name, generating many millions of dollars in earned media."

  • The $3.7 million his firm received wasn't just pocketed by Olympic — much of it went towards costs associated advertising on Klacik's behalf.
  • She later attempted to walk back her comments to the Post, saying the real culprits are platforms like Facebook and YouTube, and the fees they charge campaigns to advertise.

Klacik did not respond to requests from Axios for comment about Red Renaissance's work with Olympic.

  • Her 2020 campaign manager, who is listed as Red Renaissance's treasurer, also did not respond to inquiries.

The big picture: Firms such as Olympic buy ads and rent email and text message lists their clients can use to hit up grassroots donors.

  • The fundraising sums can be huge—but so too are the costs of mounting the campaigns. That can mean donors' money is nearly as likely to go towards additional fundraising expenses as actual campaigning.
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