By Greg Bump
House on the Rock Inn and Resort received a heap of international
attention for being the place where Dem hopeful John Kerry holed up
for days in late September with his closest advisers to prepare for his
first debate against President George Bush.
But, when a $20,000 tab goes unpaid for several months, a blessing can
turn into a curse.
Sue Donaldson, president of Vivid Incoporated, the company that owns
House on the Rock Inn and Resort, says about $20,000 is still
outstanding for Kerry’s rental of a condo, food for staff, meeting room
rental, and extra services requested for installing communications
“We’ve been trying to collect it for the last couple of months, calling
every couple days,” Donaldson said Thursday. “They’re not disputing it.
They keep saying it’s coming, and it never comes.”
About $30,000 of the Kerry campaign’s total $50,000 tab has been
recouped by House on the Rock, including expenses for the Secret
Service personnel paid for by the federal government and press
contingent paid for by the campaign.
Donaldson said she heard of no problems during Kerry’s stay.
“Everything actually was very smooth,” she said. The situation is
unusual because the resort and inn normally collect on their bills
within a month. “Rarely does it go past 30 days,” Donaldson said.
“At what point do we get our attorneys involved?” she asked. “It’s
getting near that point.”
Donaldson said the Kerry stay was a big chunk of the resort’s September
business, and although it did provide some media exposure for the House
on the Rock, she also had to limit other business during Kerry’s visit.
“We turned away a lot of business that week,” Donaldson said. “Rudy
Giuliani was in town, and the Republican Party wanted rooms. We did
turn away business.”
In addition, one of the House’s security personnel worked in his
off-hours for the campaign, agreeing with the campaign in a signed
contract he would receive $800 for working on his days off. Like his
full-time employer House on the Rock, the young man has yet to get paid
by the Kerry campaign.
All this seems hard to believe from a campaign that was heavily
criticized a few weeks ago for having left $15 million in its coffers
as it went down in defeat to Bush.
Rich Judge, state director for the Kerry campaign, said it’s not
unusual for bill paying to get a bit behind as virtual armies of staff
dwindle to very few after the election. “There’s usually mop-up for
quite a while,” he said. “We saw it with the coordinated campaign in 2002. The people who arrange for service x, y, or z are dealing with a campaign staffer who leaves the campaign a week after it is over, the lines go dead and they get frustrated because they’re not thinking about how political structure works.”
Judge contacted what’s left of the Kerry campaign staff on Thursday,
and they assured him that payment was on its way. He said he
understands the concerns of Donaldson or any other business owner who
might be checking their mail for an overdue payment from the campaign.
One thing is sure, Judge said, they will be paid.
“Their frustration is shared by the campaign. There are so many
instances where people are mad about these things. We have the money
and want to pay them.”