Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Money - Part I

Follow the money.
-- W. Mark Felt (aka "Deep Throat")

I ain't no Deep Throat by any measure, but money and its sources tend to help put things in perspective. With the 3rd Quarter FEC reports due October 15 (tomorrow), I thought it might be interesting to look at where Tim Walberg's phenomenal fundraising came from.

Just as a note, primary challengers against incumbents don't get lots of funding in most cases. When Patrick Flynn challenged incumbent Congressman Mike Rogers (R, MI-08) this summer, he raised only $3,432-- and $2,672 of that was his own money. Rogers, on the other hand, had received $1,025,756. But Michigan saw two particularly well-funded primary challenges, with Pan Godchaux managing $467,170 against Joe Knollenberg and with Tim Walberg's challenge to Congressman Joe Schwarz.

Walberg raised $615,346 between announcing his candidacy and July 19, 2006-- the date of the pre-primary FEC report against Joe Schwarz's $1,347,103. But strikingly, Walberg narrowly out-raised Schwarz if one only counts individual contributions-- ordinary citizens contributing up to $2,100 to a candidate-- at $600,620 to $572,315. So Tim Walberg must have a strong base of support among average citizens, right? Well, maybe. But they weren't 7th District voters.

If I'm interpreting it correctly, the FEC data available online only includes contributions of $200 to $2,100, the maximum "hard-money" donation following the McCain-Feingold law. I'd say these are pretty substantial contributions, since not everyone has several hundred dollars to drop on a candidate. Even the most politically involved will often only donate $20 at a time. Of the $600,620 Walberg raised, $364,348 can be attributed to these donations, each of which are listed online by the FEC. That's 59.2 percent of contributions, coming from 655 donations.

That's a lot of people dropping a lot of money for Tim Walberg. But who were these people? A few notable names pop out here and there. I recognized at least two names related to prominent Lenawee County businesses. But as one looks down the list, it becomes clear that most of the contributions didn't come from the state of Michigan.

Of those 655 donations, only 116 came from Michigan residents. That's a mere 17.7 percent of his contributions.

Another way of looking at it: out of the $364,348 of major contributions, only $68,991 came from Michigan.That's just 18.9 percent of the money.

Mind you, this doesn't even make the distinction between in the 7th District and outside the district but still in Michigan. Plenty of money came from the Detroit suburbs or Grand Rapids or elsewhere, too. But it's striking that so much money came to Walberg during the primary campaign from so many people that don't even live in the state!

So why do so many out-of-staters like Tim Walberg? Or, perhaps we should be asking why so few people in Michigan support him!

As we all know, though, modern political campaigns rely on more than just individual contributors. A big part of campaign financing comes from non-party committees, often PACs, that are interested in the outcome of the race. Joe Schwarz got a majority of his money from them, $773,015. How about Tim Walberg?

Walberg received only $33,065 directly from such groups (Note: that figure does not include contributions more recent than July 19, despite their inclusion on the FEC page). I am somewhat confused, however; that value was found by adding all of the contributions labeled under "Walberg for Congress" and "Contributions". Yet the summary page of Walberg's latest FEC filing has only $12,000 listed as his total. Is there something I'm misunderstanding?

Regardless, it's a relatively small portion of his total financing. Even so, its sources are:
  • Associated Builders and Contractors PAC - $5,000
  • Campaign for Working Families - $5,000
  • Citizens United Political Victory Fund - $1,000
  • Club for Growth Inc. PAC - $16,065 (in 37 different contributions)
  • Conservative Victory Fund - $500
  • Eagle Forum PAC - $3,000 (in two contributions)
  • National Conservative Campaign Fund - $1,000
  • Republican National Coalition for Life PAC - $1,000
  • Right to Life of Michigan PAC - $500.
Obviously, the big contributor there is the Club for Growth. But everyone's gone on and on about how much the Club for Growth influenced the primary, and all they contributed was $16,065? They must not have been a big factor, eh?

Well, not quite. See, that only covers the actual direct contributions those organizations gave to Tim Walberg's campaign committee. The Club for Growth and others, however, spent money independently of Walberg as well, while still acting in support of him or in opposition to Joe Schwarz.

A total of $227,334 was spent in this way, by three different organizations. That will be covered in Part II of this post, which should come sometime tomorrow. Until then, the questions for you to think about:

Why did so much of Tim Walberg's money come from out-of-state donors or PACs and similar organizations? Is his constituency really the voters of the 7th District? Or would he vote to protect the interests of his donors?

UPDATE: A little more information on how the Club for Growth raises money for candidates, thanks to Laura Packard, a wealth of information. Via e-mail:
Most of Walberg's money came from Club for Growth, but not from their
PAC directly.. what they do is they mail and email their whole big
list of donors, and those people all send individual checks. That's
why he doesn't have big PAC amounts showing up, yet his amount of MI
donors is small. This is also how Emily's List works, on our side. A
nationwide network of small donors, and bundling their checks

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