Vendors say Mihos won’t pay them

Complaint filed with campaign finance officials

Three vendors say Christy Mihos, who is seeking the GOP nomination for governor, owes them about $43,500. Three vendors say Christy Mihos, who is seeking the GOP nomination for governor, owes them about $43,500.
By Frank Phillips
Globe Staff / January 24, 2010

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Three major vendors for Christy Mihos’s gubernatorial campaign have filed a joint complaint with state campaign finance officials against the Cape Cod businessman, saying he has failed to pay them for more than $43,500 worth of work involving website development, the production of TV commercials, and media consulting.

The three told the Office of Campaign and Political Finance that Mihos has repeatedly rebuffed their requests that he compensate them for services they performed last fall to help launch his campaign for the Republican nomination. None of the bills appears on Mihos’s disclosure reports, which his campaign manager, Joseph W. Manzoli, said Friday was an “oversight’’ and would be corrected.

Manzoli did not respond to a request for further comment from either the campaign or Mihos.

The largest bill - $34,000 - is from Rick Wilson, a New York-based GOP political media adviser, who worked with Mihos’s $20,000-a-month national Republican consultant Dick Morris to produce ads and provide other consulting.

Another bill is from Kevin Sowyrda, his former communications director, who says Mihos owes him $7,500 for services through October, when he was let go from the campaign.

“I have numerous e-mails from the candidate acknowledging his full satisfaction with the services provided during that month, but he nonetheless refuses to pay me,’’ Sowyrda said in the complaint filed Friday.

Mihos’s problems with the vendors highlights some of the financial and other uncertainties surrounding his campaign. Despite vows to raise large sums from contributors, most of the $400,000 he has spent since July has been from his personal wealth. He has so far used $295,000 of his money to fund the race, state records show.

He has had numerous staff turnovers, including the resignation of highly respected national Republican fund-raiser Carolyn Machado, who spent little more than a month on the campaign. Despite claims he would spend “hundreds of thousands’’ of dollars for an early statewide TV ad blitz last fall, Mihos only spent $35,000, state records show.

The third vendor, website developer Geoff Fudge, said Mihos owes him $2,025, and he has e-mails the candidate sent him acknowledging the debt and promising to pay it by the end of 2009.

He said his attempts to collect on the debt produced a bizarre response from Mihos.

Fudge said in a phone interview that Mihos told him he laid a trap for him - providing him with false information that made its way to a reporter. He said in an e-mail that it proved Fudge was a leak. Fudge provided copies of the e-mails to the Globe.

“It’s almost amusing just for the value of that incident,’’ said Fudge, who said he has never talked to the press about the campaign. “It is madness.’’

According to the e-mails, the information Mihos had planted with Fudge was that the campaign treasurer had resigned.

Manzoli declined to comment about the e-mails.

“Geoff - I now know how you operate,’’ Mihos told Fudge in a Jan. 10 e-mail response to his request for payment. “There is no ‘resignation’ of the treasurer. We needed to find the source of these leaks and we solved that today.’’

Fudge expressed dismay. “I’m now thoroughly confused,’’ he said. “All I really need to know is when I can expect a check.’’

Mihos replied: “We will pay, as I represented to you the $2,025. Please - that you leaked this to the press with your friends speaks volumes. That is the extent of our payments and service with your firm.’’

Wilson and Sowyrda declined to comment on their complaints.

Other campaign finance issues also have surfaced.

Mihos did not file financial reports until July, although he was moving around the state calling himself a candidate for governor many months before that. State laws require that candidates regularly file disclosures of campaign-related expenditures. The Office of Campaign and Political Finance would have to determine whether Mihos violated the law.

Before Mihos filed campaign papers in July, Boston public relations executive George Regan’s company was working behind the scenes to provide press and media consulting to Mihos.

But the Mihos campaign committee reported no payment to Regan Communications until November, although records provided by Regan’s firm show it was receiving a monthly $3,500 retainer from Mihos’s company, Christy’s of Cape Cod, from October 2008 to November 2009.

The only payment made by the Mihos political committee to Regan Communications was a $6,600 check dated Oct. 29, after the Globe made inquiries about the firm’s role in the campaign, state records show.