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Rob Ford's campaign expenses range from Oreos to office space

Rob Ford stops into his Etobicoke campaign office to thank his campaign team and volunteers on Oct. 24, 2010.

jennifer roberts The Globe and Mail

Rob Ford's campaign spent more than $1.7-million on everything from Oreo cookies to parking tickets to office space at his family business.

The expenses are detailed in financial documents Mr. Ford filed on Thursday that reveal the unorthodox machinations at work behind a surprise campaign that vaulted Mr. Ford from the right-wing fringes of city council into the mayor's seat.

In all, Mr. Ford's campaign spent roughly $500,000 less than his nearest competitor, George Smitherman, who showed up at City Hall to file his own finances just minutes before his former rival did the same.

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And while Mr. Smitherman said his campaign posted a surplus of "a few thousand dollars," Mr. Ford's ran a loss of $800,000, most of which was cleared during the Harmony Dinner held in February, according to Adrienne Batra, the mayor's press secretary.

Mr. Ford's tab began running last March with a lavish wine-and-cheese campaign launch at the Toronto Congress Centre costing over $25,000. That expense, along with a number of early campaign charges, was paid to Doug Ford Holdings, the company that owns Mr. Ford's family business, Deco Labels and Tags.

It appeared the family holding company fronted much of the campaign's startup costs, including $10,000 for chief fundraiser Stephen Sparling and $3,000 for Mark Towhey, who remains one of Mr. Ford's closest advisers.

The statements uncover the extent of the family business's role in the race. Deco received upwards of $150,000, largely for materials printed by the firm's innovative "flexographic" process. In August alone, the campaign paid nearly $30,000 to Deco. A portion of that paid for space at the company's headquarters, where campaign manager Nick Kouvalis was known to sleep.

Just as significant as those big-ticket expenses are the big-ticket absences: There are few charges for glitzy television ads, radio spots or newspaper notices. Mr. Kouvalis designed a strategy that focused money on "measurable" exposure, such as telephone town halls, where an automated system would dial 30,000 residents and invite them to engage with the candidate by phone.

"The town halls were fantastic," Mr. Kouvalis said. "You can control the message without the media filtering. Later you can measure the data, study the people who were engaged. You don't get that with a newspaper ad."

A company called Direct Communications Management ran most of the town halls, billing around $6,000 for each hour-long event. In May alone, the firm made more than $18,000 from the campaign.

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Surveys of city voters ran up to $22,000 a pop and single charges for mass calling campaigns cost up to $10,500 – both of which were integral to Mr. Ford's victory, according to Mr. Kouvalis.

"With the live voter ID calling, we were able to segment the population according to demographics that would vote for Rob. We looked at where they lived, education, money, anything that would help inform our voter coalition group," he said.

Social media consulting fees totalled over $20,000. Throughout the grinding 10-month contest, Mr. Ford appeared in shaky YouTube videos, each garnering thousands of hits.

The statements also included incidental expenses, including $30 for a campaign bus parking ticket and $4 for Oreo cookies.

Mr. Smitherman's $2.2-million campaign faces one last challenge before it's put to bed. A phone supplier is taking the former candidate to small-claims court, but the total sum amounts to no more than the campaign's surplus. "As a matter of principle we didn't pay that entire bill because the product didn't live up to our expectation."

Mr. Smitherman has been keeping a low profile since his loss to Mr. Ford last year, but said he's enjoying freedom from 12 straight years in politics. "I'm chasing after a two-year-old, working hard to be a good dad," he explained, "enjoying weekend liberation."

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About the Author
National reporter

Patrick previously worked in the Globe's Winnipeg bureau, covering the Prairies and Nunavut, and at Toronto City Hall. He is a National Magazine Award recipient and author of the book Mountie In Mukluks. More

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