First-quarter financial reports are up for all U.S. House candidates at the Federal Election Commission’s notoriously user-unfriendly website.
The big news came from IA-01, where a newcomer to campaigning pulled in one of the biggest single-quarter hauls by a non-incumbent in Iowa history. To my knowledge, the only Iowa challenger who has raised more for a U.S. House race in one quarter than Ravi Patel just did was former First Lady Christie Vilsack in her 2012 marquee race against Representative Steve King. I believe that King is the only Iowa incumbent who has raised more than half a million dollars for a U.S. House race in one quarter; he did it twice during that re-election campaign against Vilsack in a redrawn IA-04.
Follow me after the jump for highlights on fundraising in all four Iowa districts. Bonus points if you can guess which former Iowa Congressional candidate is still carrying debt from two campaigns ago.
If you’re an incumbent on the outs with your own party leaders after snubbing the House speaker, it helps to be independently wealthy. Representative Rod Blum loaned his own campaign half a million dollars during the first quarter of this year, on top of the $100,000 he loaned during September 2014. Self-financing will be critically important for Blum, since he has not raised large sums from other donors in his previous Congressional campaigns. Blum’s latest FEC filing shows $49,043.84 in donations from individuals, a remarkably low total for a House incumbent these days. Pat Rynard remarked at Iowa Starting Line,
What’s particularly surprising about Blum’s lackluster haul is that he has nationally-known Republican presidential candidates coming to help him fund raise. He only got a measly 40 people to donate over $200 to this campaign, indicating he must not have spent much time on the phones the past few months. Blum’s fundraiser that featured Ted Cruz fell on April 1st, so that might have pushed those donations off until the 2nd Quarter report. Still, you’d think Blum would have cashed a few more of those checks prior to the end of the quarter.
A further $70,499.20 from political action committees brought Blum’s total contributions to $119,543.04 in the first quarter. His campaign reported just $20,697.22 in expenditures, along with $13,050.19 in unpaid bills. But even that level of spending wouldn’t leave much of a war chest, if not for the huge personal loan.
Thanks to his ability to self-fund, Blum ended the quarter with $644,373.01 cash on hand. I assume he’ll be writing more checks to his own campaign over the next year, because the National Republican Congressional Committee doesn’t have Blum in its incumbent protection program, whereas the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sees IA-01 as a top target.
Three Democrats are running against Blum, but Gary Kroeger kicked things off this month, meaning he won’t need to file a financial report until the end of the second quarter. That leaves Monica Vernon (the runner-up from the 2014 IA-01 primary) and first-time candidate Ravi Patel.
Vernon’s campaign reported raising $190,513.30 during the quarter, all but $2,500 from individuals. She also loaned her campaign $110,000 on the last day of March, in an apparent attempt to push her total receipts over $300,000.
Vernon’s campaign spent just $10,526.87 during the quarter, leaving $289,976 cash on hand at the end of March. It’s a solid start and would have been an impressive report in the context of the five-way Democratic primary of 2014.
However, Patel’s filing was a shocker. I would not have thought a first-time candidate in Iowa could raise $527,604 from individual donors in a quarter, especially a candidate under the age of 30. One PAC donation of $5,000 and $7,054.05 from the candidate brought Patel’s first-quarter contribution total to $539,658.05.
As mentioned above, Christie Vilsack outdid that fundraising total during one quarter of 2012, but she was much more widely-known than Patel, and she was running against one of the most hated Republicans in Congress. Most Iowa incumbents don’t raise as much money as Patel just did. Looking back through some old FEC reports from longtime Republican Representative Tom Latham, I saw that he occasionally reported $400,000 or more in contributions for a single quarter, but he typically raised far more from PACs than from individuals. To my knowledge, Latham’s largest cash haul for one quarterly filing was $481,331.99 during the third quarter of 2012, and two-thirds of that total came from PACs. At the time, Latham was an 18-year incumbent.
Steve King exceeded Patel’s individual contributions for a three-month period during the second and third quarters of 2012, but he was a hero to far-right Republicans nationwide after nearly a decade in Congress.
Patel hasn’t spent much on his campaign so far, just $41,517.22, which left $498,140.83 cash on hand as of March 31. Plenty of incumbents would be happy to be sitting on that much money at this point in the election cycle.
UPDATE: As Bleeding Heartland user DCCyclone points out in the comments, I should have noted that many of Patel’s donors have maxed out for the general election as well as the primary. In fact, more than 80 people have given his campaign $5,400 or close to that amount. At most $2,700 from each donor can be used for Patel’s primary campaign. So his cash on hand total includes well over $200,000 that can’t be spent until after June 7, 2016. If Patel loses the IA-01 primary, he will have to return those funds to the donors.
Some wonder if having two Indian-American candidates in the race will eat into each other’s fundraising ability from that group. However, Patel and Dandekar’s families hail from different regions of India (and in a country of over a billion people, that’s a significant difference), and Patel’s networks run more in the hotelier industry.
Five-term Representative Dave Loebsack, the only Democrat left in Iowa’s Congressional delegation, reported raising $197,025.50 during the first three months of the year, $58,000.50 from individuals and $139,025.00 from a wide range of progressive, labor, and corporate PACs.
Loebsack’s campaign spent $61,683.23 during the quarter on typical expenses, leaving $168,811.55 cash on hand as of March 31. Although that’s not a big war chest, Loebsack is unlikely to face a strong challenge in a presidential election year. IA-02 leans Democratic with a partisan voting index of D+4. Loebsack survived the 2014 wave with a 5-point victory over Mariannette Miller-Meeks. He won his 2012 re-election campaign by about a 13-point margin (50,000 votes).
I am not aware of any Republicans actively campaigning against Loebsack yet.
First-term Representative David Young has less cash on hand than his northeast Iowa colleague Blum but is better-positioned in some ways. His district has a slight Republican voter registration advantage and an even partisan voting index, compared to D+5 in Blum’s Democratic-leaning district.
Like his predecessor Tom Latham, Young serves on the House Appropriations Committee, which partly explains his popularity with a wide range or conservative and corporate PACs. Young’s campaign reported raising $333,290.00 during the first quarter, more than twice as much from PACs ($226,400) as from individuals ($106,890). Although many of his individual donors live in Iowa, Young continues to raise a lot of cash from people in the Washington, DC area–no surprise for someone who was a career Congressional staffer before becoming a candidate.
Young is in the NRCC’s “Patriot” program for vulnerable incumbents, and he will get help from his former boss and mentor, Senator Chuck Grassley.
Young reported $37,503.39 in expenditures during the first quarter, leaving $351,623.61 cash on hand as of March 31. On the other hand, his campaign has $80,450 in unpaid bills and still owes $250,000 to the candidate on loans provided during the 2014 campaign. He’ll need to raise a lot more money if he expects to pay himself back, because a district-wide re-election race in IA-03 won’t be cheap.
Several Democrats are thinking about running in IA-03, but none has launched a campaign yet. The 2014 Democratic nominee Staci Appel reported raising just $20 during the first quarter; her campaign spent $52,089.67 between January and March, including more than $45,000 on “media production,” but I assume those were bills from last year’s race.
State Senator Brad Zaun, who has flirted with challenging Young in the 2016 GOP primary, provided some comic relief in this first-quarter filing. His campaign neither raised nor spent any money and is still carrying $22,987.69 in debts, mostly to the Davenport-based consulting firm Victory Enterprises. The debt is from Zaun’s 2010 race against Leonard Boswell; Victory Enterprises backed a different horse in the 2014 GOP primary to represent IA-03.
More than a year ago, Zaun told Republican blogger Craig Robinson that he had paid off debt from his 2010 campaign.
My unsolicited advice to Zaun: stop kidding yourself about running against Young next year. If you want to raise your political stock, focus on helping Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker do well in the Iowa caucuses.
Seven-term Representative Steve King typically doesn’t spend a lot of energy on fundraising unless his back is against the wall, as it was in his targeted 2012 race against Christie Vilsack. During the first three months of this year, King raised just $45,293.41, $36,293.41 from individuals and $9,000 from a handful of PACs.
King’s campaign spent rather heavily ($83,452.83 during the quarter), but nothing jumped out as strange on the itemized disbursement list.
As of March 31, King’s campaign had $95,791.33 cash on hand. That money won’t scare off prospective challengers, but the GOP voter registration advantage of nearly 57,000 people will, sad to say. I have not yet heard of any Democrats planning to take on King next year.
Any comments about Iowa’s 2016 Congressional races are welcome in this thread.