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Consultants Big Winners in Clergy Coalition Same Sex Marriage Fight

11/01/2013 04:23 pm ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

Spreading the word of God apparently requires lots of dough for PR consultants.

Bishop Larry Trotter's PAC - African American Clergy Coalition - the vehicle for the Washington D.C.-based National Organization for Marriage to oppose Illinois same sex marriage legislation - has consumed more than half of its patron's cash on consultants.

Since Trotter's PAC was established last March through the third quarter, its national sponsors and - only source of money - have pumped in $82,000. Of that amount, Trotter has spent $44,950 on consultants, including $1,000 for himself and $1,000 for Pastor Lance Davis for "clergy consulting", according to campaign finance reports filed with the Illinois State Board of Elections.

The largest chunk of money - $25,700 - went to former Cook County Board President Todd Stroger operatives Sean Howard and Frank Bass. The rest of the consulting cash went to other Trotter insiders.

Howard, Trotter's right and left hand, has pocketed $14,750 for coalition "media relations." He was a campaign spokesman for Stroger's reelection campaign and who was fired by Stroger, which should tell you something.

Bass, who was a Cook County lobbyist under both Stroger and his father John Stroger during their terms as county board president, has drawn $10,950 from the PAC.

Meanwhile, in the last 8 months, just $19,730 was spent by the Clergy Coalition on radio ads, which was one its chief campaign objectives when the PAC was first announced. Additionally, Trotter paid $5,300 for robo calls and $3,269 for brochures. And $5,825 was spent for "street team distribution" for those brochures.

Veteran public relations and political consultant Thom Serafin, President of Serafin & Associates, dinged Trotter's PAC for its consultant spending, but acknowledged its objective is being achieved.

"Well, to be fair, I would need a deeper dive into all of this - length of campaign, etc,...but from 35k feet it's weighted too heavily on the consultant's side," Serafin said. "The tactical tools are not well funded, yet the issue remains stalled."

Public relations strategist and political commentator Dave Lundy, President of Chicago-based Aileron Communications, also questioned the group's spending priorities and also said its impact on the marriage equality bill debate is a mixed bag of nuts.

"If their goal was moving public opinion, that level of spend is a joke - think of a pint of beer in Lake Michigan," Lundy said. "But if their goal was to make African American legislators think twice on the issue, then it has been effective to date. The real question is, now that we know their spend was largely a bluff, have they lost their power to intimidate?"

To answer Lundy's question, that depends on future funding for the pastors' PAC.

Trotter's last cash infusion from his paymaster, $10,000, arrived on July 1 and he has seen not a dollar since. And the PAC ended the quarter with only $4,073 in the bank.

If the same sex marriage battle reaches beyond November, we'll see if the National Organization for Marriage writes any more checks to Trotter's operation or if its tolerance for paying Trotter and his consultants has been breached.

Stay tuned.

DavidOrmsby@DavidOrmsby.com

David also edits, with the help of Capitol Fax's Rich Miller,
The Illinois Observer: The Insider, in which this article first appeared.