Wednesday, April 16, 2008

money talks

Now occationally, underfunded challengers (and incumbents) win (re)election, but study after study of Congressional races shows, the candidate that raises the most money usually wins.

Is it because money buys TV ads, and people listen to TV ads? Partly, but mostly because donors usually "bet on" winners/favorites, which is why candidates like Pete Ashdown had trouble scaring up money. Money from individuals also tells you to some extent who has grassroots support, especially if the individual donors come from within the candidate's voting district. Of course, the longer incumbents are around, the easier it is for them to raise money outside their district (and thus the percentages alter).

Political junkies know that looking at quarterly fundraising reports are a good way to get a read on whether a race will be close--or a blowout--and which one insiders think it will be. Case in point, Utah's Second Congressional District.
Dew, who has previously said he was willing to spend his own money on the race, proved Tuesday that he really will fund his campaign — so far, almost entirely. Based on Federal Election Commission reports filed Tuesday, he raised only $40 for his campaign but still is awash in money when compared to his GOP rivals.

A millionaire former homebuilder who has been a GOP state delegate and precinct chairman, Dew has $203,535 cash on hand, according to his report. He loaned his campaign $250,000 and spent $46,504 on "operating expenditures," according to his statement.

He said that he has not decided on a cap for his personal campaign spending but that he started with $250,000 so that "people would know we are serious about beating Jim Matheson."

Matheson's other Republican challenger, former congressman and perennial candidate Merrill Cook, raised $21,069 since the beginning of 2008 and has $10,131.08 cash on hand, according to the filings.

None of the challengers, however, are close — yet — to touching Matheson's war chest. The four-term Democrat raised $218,476 for the first quarter and has more than $1 million cash on hand.
Incumbents also build up a big warchest to scare away challengers--like Sen. Clinton did in 2006. But sometimes, incumbents are so vulnerable, no amount of money raised is going to scare challengers away. Othertimes, their vulnerability is indicated by their low cash-on-hand numbers (that's amount raised minus amount spent). For example, Alaska's lone House seat:
In the first three months of 2008, [Rep. Don] Young raised $131,575 -- a sum that wasn't nearly enough to meet his net expenditures of $443,238. His once-burgeoning cash-on-hand is now sitting at $604,268. Will Young have the resources he needs to fend off very competitive primary and general election challenges?

Young's tab included a long list of legal fees, including $212,752 paid to Akin Gump, $1100 to Holmes Weddle, $24,520 to Tobin O'Connor, and $15,020 to John W. Wolfe. That's a lot of scrilla, especially when you consider that Young began 2007 with $1.86 million cash-on-hand, a number that has dwindled in large part due to legal fees such as these.
Why is he spending millions on lawyers? He altered a spending bill after it passed both chambers of Congress, but before it reached the President's desk--to include a $10 Million earmark for a road in Florida. Why would an Alaskan Congressman violate the consitutition about a road in Florida?
Daniel J. Aronoff, a real estate developer who [owns as much as 4,000 acres along Coconut Road] helped raise $40,000 for Mr. Young at the nearby Hyatt Coconut Point hotel days before he introduced the measure.
It's a pretty obvious case of quid pro quo, one that Conservative Republican Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Senator Barack Obama want to investigate.

But let's get back to Utah, where we have an incumbent who is at risk of losing in the primary based on issues, not on massive corruption.
Cannon, R-Utah, raised $180,760 in the first quarter of 2008, according to financial disclosure reports filed with the Federal Election Commission Tuesday, bringing his total contributions to $528,732. Cannon spent $105,358 this quarter and has $127,580 cash on hand.

Cannon has about $199,000 in campaign debt obligations at the end of the fourth quarter. Of the money he raised the past four months, about $152,000 has come from political action committees.

Leavitt, the former Juab County attorney and younger brother of former Utah governor and current Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt, estimates that his total raised this quarter is $185,438. He is still calculating the expenses but said his estimated cash on hand was $85,000.
Being down only about $27,000 to a long-time incumbent is pretty dang good. Best of luck to all those running for Congress, and please try to keep it clean. Nobody wants to see ads about "Utah values" and they don't work. Just ask not-Congressmen LaVar Christensen and John Swallow.

1 comment:

Mark Towner said...

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