Culver campaign brings on new finance director

Governor Chet Culver’s campaign announced today that Peggy Huppert has signed on as finance director. From the press release:

“Peggy is an asset to our campaign and will make sure we have the resouces needed to win in November. She brings a great deal of knowledge and experience about fundraising but also about Iowa politics,” said Culver/Judge Campaign Manager Donn Stanley.

Huppert has taken a leave of absence from her role as Iowa Director of Government Relations at the American Cancer Society to join the Culver/Judge Campaign. From 1998 to 2000, she served as co-chair of the Polk County Democrats and has continued to play a key role in Des Moines politics. Prior to her work with the American Cancer Society, Huppert worked with Iowans for Sensible Priorities/Caucus4Priorities and was Chair of the Freedom Fund.

Huppert knows a lot of the major donors in Iowa Democratic and progressive circles from her past work with the Polk County Democrats, Iowans for Sensible Priorities and the Freedom Fund. If you were in Iowa during the year before the 2008 caucuses, you may recognize this graphic even if the name “Sensible Priorities” doesn’t ring a bell:

Sensible Priorities spinning wheel

The Freedom Fund is the old name for Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa’s political action committee. PPGI became Planned Parenthood of the Heartland last year, and its political arm is now called the Planned Parenthood Voters of Iowa PAC. The Freedom Fund endorsed Culver before the 2006 Democratic primary and for the general election, and Planned Parenthood Voters of Iowa PAC has endorsed Culver for re-election.

It’s a bit late for the Culver campaign to bring a heavy-hitting fundraiser on board, but better late than never. A lot of the usual suspects in the Iowa Democratic donor world weren’t on Culver’s last campaign finance disclosure report. The Democratic Governors Association has already given money to Culver ($500,000 in 2009 and $750,000 in the spring of this year), and they may offer additional help. At the same time, they are defending a lot of governor’s seats and don’t have an endless supply of cash.

Terry Branstad depleted most of his campaign’s cash on hand by spending at least $2 million before the Republican primary. Even so, he should have resources to spend on the general election. Branstad has continued to advertise on television since the primary, which suggests he’s still collecting lots of individual donations and/or the Republican Governors Association cut him a big check. The RGA has about twice as much cash on hand as the DGA, in part because major Republican givers have been shunning the Republican National Committee.

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Both parties raising big money for governor's races

With 37 governor’s races coming up this November, the Republican Governor’s Association and the Democratic Governor’s Association are pulling in big money. The RGA “raised $9 million in the first quarter of 2010 and has $31 million cash on hand,” CNN reported yesterday. The DGA raised $8 million during the first quarter, setting a new record for the organization, and has $22 million on hand. A DGA press release noted that first-quarter receipts in 2010 exceeded the organization’s fundraising during the first six months of 2006.

The RGA and DGA set fundraising records in 2009, with the Republican organization bringing in $30 million and its Democratic counterpart raising $23 million during the off-year. I expect both groups to spend money in Iowa this year.

I’m pleasantly surprised that the DGA has been able to stay so competitive with the RGA’s fundraising in 2010. The first couple of months of the year were rocky for Democrats, and many major Republican donors have been fleeing the Republican National Committee for various reasons, including RNC staffers’ embarrassing fundraising plans and massive overspending on luxury hotels, limos and nightclubs. I suspect a lot of contributions that would have gone to the RNC in other years are flowing to the RGA.

Yesterday’s press release from the DGA noted:

Since 2006, the DGA has compiled an impressive winning record on targeted races. In the six races where both governors committees have spent at least $500,000, DGA has won four.  […]

The strong first quarter fundraising piggybacks on two consecutive record-breaking years for the DGA and builds on what was already the largest cash-on-hand in organizational history. With $22 million already in the bank, the DGA will spend more on races in 2010 than it spent in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 combined. Grassroots donors are fired up about the GOP’s redistricting takeover plan and they boosted the DGA tothe $8 million mark with a surge of contributions in the final days of the first quarter.

“Even as we’re raising more than ever before, we’re spending that money wisely,” said Nathan Daschle, the DGA’s executive director. “We’ve trimmed our operating expenses significantly so that we can put more resources where it matters – into the races on the ground – and our burn rate is the lowest it’s ever been. We are committed to spending every dollar wisely because the stakes are so high – Republicans are planning to win so many governorships that they can redistrict themselves back to power.”

Some of the key redistricting states with competitive gubernatorial elections include California, Texas, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Iowa will lose a Congressional district after the 2010 census, but our state’s governor has little influence over the redistricting process.

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Democratic Governors Association raised big money in 2009

Democratic incumbents are facing some tough governor’s races in 2010, but fortunately the Democratic Governors Association will be in a position to help in key states:

The Democratic Governors Association raised $23.1 million in 2009, more than ever before in the organization’s history, and will start the 2010 election cycle with nearly 12 times as much cash on hand as 2006, the last equivalent election cycle, Chairman Gov. Jack Markell announced today. […]

The DGA’s 2009 fundraising marks the second year in a row and the first off-year in which the DGA raised more than $20 million. Fourth quarter fundraising was by far the strongest, with more than $7 million in contributions received during the period. December contributions alone totaled nearly $4 million.

The record-breaking fundraising means that the DGA begins 2010, the most critical gubernatorial cycle in a generation, with $17.5 million on hand. In the equivalent election cycle in 2006, the DGA carried over $1.5 million and spent less than $14 million on races that year.

The Republican Governors Association has historically outraised the DGA by wide margins. In spite of the fundraising gap, since 2007, the DGA has won twice as many targeted governors races as the RGA. The DGA’s strong cash-on-hand position means that it will be able to spend at a competitive level with the RGA in this critical cycle.

Losing the governor’s races in New Jersey and Virginia was painful enough; I am glad to know that those campaigns didn’t deplete the DGA’s cash reserves.

Here in Iowa, Governor Chet Culver may need the DGA’s help to keep pace with Republican expenditures. Culver held lots of fundraisers during the fall, but he also spent money running a couple of television commercials statewide. Terry Branstad probably pulled in big numbers during the fourth quarter, although he will have to spend a lot of cash before the Republican primary in June. At least one other Republican candidate, Bob Vander Plaats, has enough resources to run a strong primary campaign.

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