Iowa Congressional 4Q fundraising news roundup

The Iowa caucuses got in the way of Bleeding Heartland’s usual practice of covering Congressional year-end financial reports soon after the Federal Election Commission’s January 31 filing deadline. In the spirit of “better late than never,” highlights on fundraising and spending by the declared Iowa candidates are after the jump.

These numbers explain why last week the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee got behind Monica Vernon in the first district primary but declared the third district an “emerging race” without specifying support for any candidate. That said, the New York Jobs PAC gave $1,000 to Jim Mowrer’s campaign in December; that political action committee is affiliated with Representative Steve Israel, who chairs the DCCC.


First-term Representative Rod Blum is widely considered among the most vulnerable Congressional incumbents this cycle. His campaign reported $121,936.23 in total contributions during the fourth quarter, $67,936.23 from individuals and $54,000.00 from conservative and corporate PACs. During the third quarter, his campaign raised a similar amount, with a slightly higher proportion of individual donations.

Blum tends to spend sparingly on his campaigns, and this quarter was no exception: just $22,806.33 in reported expenditures, plus $2,600 in contribution refunds, left $1,035,407.67 cash on hand, the highest among Iowa’s four U.S. House incumbents. Blum would have a much smaller war chest if he hadn’t loaned his own campaign $100,000 in 2014 and $500,000 last year. For whatever reason, he still has not paid a $10,000 “win bonus” to a media group.

Blum can’t count on a lot of outside help in IA-01. He was frozen out of the National Republican Congressional Committee’s incumbent protection program last year after not voting to re-elect John Boehner as speaker. New Speaker Paul Ryan is reportedly holding a reception with Blum this month, though, which may indicate that the NRCC will consider helping Blum during the general election campaign.

Of the three Democratic candidates in this district, Cedar Rapids City Council member Monica Vernon raised by far the most money. Her campaign reported $224,422.40 in total contributions, of which $80,783.28 came from the candidate and $143,619.12 came from other individuals.

Vernon’s campaign had a high burn rate with $115,824.76 in spending during the fourth quarter, mostly on salaries and other typical expenses. She spent $10,000 on “research” by the Anzalone Liszt Grove polling firm. As of December 31, her campaign had $270,906.33 cash on hand.

CORRECTION: In an unfortunate first for Bleeding Heartland, the above numbers were from the wrong report for Vernon. Her latest FEC filing showed $200,220.29 in total contributions for the fourth quarter, including $174,053.61 from individuals and $26.700.00 from PACs–some affiliated with members of Congress and some with labor unions.

The burn rate was still high: Vernon’s campaign reported $156,115.91 in disbursements during the last three months of the year, mostly for salaries, consulting fees, and other typical expenses. The largest single expenditures were $34,900 to Anzalone Liszt Grover Research for polling and $17,000 to Walsworth Landset Research for research consulting. The $608,977.77 cash on hand total is a large amount for a challenger, though the campaign is also carrying $125,800.00 in debt owed to the candidate.

Vernon’s main Democratic competitor is former Iowa House Speaker Pat Murphy, who won the 2014 nomination in IA-01. He was the prohibitive favorite during that primary race, but many Democratic insiders got behind Vernon early last year. Murphy’s campaign reported raising $43,696.17 during the last three months of the year, all from individuals. It was less than his fundraising haul during the third quarter.

After spending $34,086.93 on typical campaign expenses and repaying $10,000 in loans made by the candidate, Murphy’s campaign closed out the year with $86,495.76 cash on hand. He won’t be able to run nearly as many television commercials as he did during the last primary race, and he will be outspent by Vernon–though as the candidate with the highest name recognition district-wide, Murphy cannot be counted out. He will also get some outside support; the progressive Blue America PAC has endorsed him.

Gary Kroeger will struggle to fund an active district-wide primary campaign. He continues to raise the least of the candidates here by far. During the fourth quarter, Kroeger’s campaign reported $17,460.69 in contributions, all from individuals, and spent $18,095.42, leaving just $8,391.28 cash on hand.

Most Congressional candidates stayed neutral in the presidential race, but Kroeger was an outspoken supporter of Bernie Sanders. I doubt that will translate into many extra votes for him in the IA-01 primary, though Sanders did carry several of the 20 counties in IA-01, including the two largest in population (Linn and Black Hawk).


Five-term Democratic Representative Dave Loebsack had a typical fundraising quarter: $216,661.05 in total contributions, including $105,661.05 from individuals and $111,000.00 from a mix of corporate and labor PACs. Loebsack’s campaign spent $62,291.46 during the reporting period, mostly on salaries and fundraising-related expenses. His $559,778.05 cash on hand signals that he will have no trouble funding a strong general election campaign across the 24 counties in IA-02.

At this writing, I have been unable to find a year-end campaign finance report for State Senator Mark Chelgren, the only declared GOP challenger in IA-02. The FEC’s website includes only statements of organization for his campaign. Either Chelgren raised and spent almost no money for his Congressional race during the fourth quarter, or someone dropped the ball on reporting. I am seeking comment. Chelgren has been successful in business and could probably self-fund much of his campaign, but that spending would still need to be reported with the FEC once it crosses a certain threshold.


First-term Representative David Young didn’t blow the doors off by any means. His campaign reported $175,081.37 in total receipts, substantially less than during the third quarter of 2015. Young would have been out-raised by two of his competitors this quarter, if not for a long list of corporate and conservative PACs that accounted for $116,950, more than two-thirds of the money he brought in. Young’s itemized contributions show $53,634.19 from individuals, mostly from people giving $500 or more. He also transferred some money from his campaign for the U.S. Senate during the 2014 election cycle; Young abandoned that bid shortly after longtime Representative Tom Latham announced his retirement plans.

Young’s campaign reported spending $71,429.07 during the last three months of the year, with consulting and printing fees consuming the largest share. If you want evidence of the powers of incumbency, look no further than Young’s $782,391.99 cash on hand as of December 31. His campaign is still carrying $250,000 in debt to the candidate (loans carried over from the 2014 election cycle) and $30,650 in other unpaid bills. Nevertheless, the incumbent will have plenty of money to fend off any primary challengers and should go into the general election with a large war chest by Iowa standards.

Speaking of challengers, Young’s only declared Republican opponent so far, Joe Grandanette, did not file a year-end report with the FEC. I assume that means he has raised and spent almost no money on his campaign.

Jim Mowrer’s campaign reported raising $153,191.76 during the fourth quarter, a little less than the money raised during the previous quarter but still a solid amount for a Congressional challenger. Most of the contributions came from individuals, though four political action committees gave a total of $8,500. As mentioned above, a PAC connected to DCCC chair Steve Israel gave $1,000. Contributions of $2,500 each came from two labor union PACs and VoteVets, for which Mowrer formerly served as senior adviser. VoteVets also contributed to Mowrer’s campaign during the previous fundraising period.

Worth noting: Mowrer raised more than $2 million for his 2014 campaign against Representative Steve King in the fourth district. Although IA-03 is objectively far more winnable for a Democrat than IA-04, donors are more eager to chip in when the target is someone they love to hate. Young is smart to avoid saying offensive things on national television.

I was surprised to see that Mowrer’s campaign reported $90,960.94 in expenditures during the last three months of 2015: $82,625.94 for typical campaign expenditures like staff salaries and consulting, plus two refunds of contributions and a total of $4,025 to the Iowa Democratic Party and the Polk County Democrats. Although the spending is not unusual, that’s a high burn rate. The $239,652.14 left in the bank as of December 31 will be plenty for Mowrer to run a district-wide primary campaign but may not leave much for the general election, if he wins the nomination.

Mike Sherzan, who officially launched his Democratic campaign in December, loaned his own campaign $200,000 and reported raising another $27,585.24, $5,985.24 from the candidate and $21,250 from other individuals. After spending just $7,298.15, he ended the year with $220,287.09 cash on hand.

The first Democrat to announce in this district continues to struggle with fundraising. Desmund Adams reported raising $10,370 during the last three months of the year, all from individuals. His campaign spent $12,755.22 during the same period, leaving $3,907.36 cash on hand with $12,731.30 in unpaid bills as of December 31. The Adams campaign also closed out the third quarter with more debts than cash on hand.

Former Governor Chet Culver has not responded to my request for comment on whether he is still considering a campaign in this district. With only a month left before the filing deadline, it seems highly unlikely he will enter the field.


For an entrenched Congressional incumbent, seven-term Representative Steve King raises remarkably little money. In fairness, he spent much of November and December campaigning for presidential candidate Ted Cruz rather than worrying about his own race. Still, his reported fundraising was on the low side: $86,638.87 from individuals and $46,000.00 from a range of conservative and corporate PACs, totaling $132,638.87 in receipts during the last three months of the year.

King’s campaign reported $139,729.38 in expenditures during the fourth quarter–more than it took in. Direct mail, marketing, and staff salaries accounted for most of the money spent, but the biggest single payment was $33,800.71 to cover “a pheasant hunt event.” (Presidential candidates Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, and Rick Santorum took part in that event; you can view some photos here.) King also chipped in $2,000 to Rod Blum’s campaign in IA-01. His campaign reported just $118,909.89 cash on hand as of December 31.

Republican operative Nick Ryan is looking for a primary challenger in this district and was practically salivating over King’s low cash on hand number. I remain skeptical that any rival GOP candidate will materialize, even if many Iowa Republicans were upset by King’s endorsement of Cruz. If a challenger emerges, he or she would need to submit at least 1,866 signatures on nominating petitions by March 18. Furthermore, “Signatures for candidates in this district must be collected in at least 20 counties. The minimum number of signatures that must be collected in each of the 20 counties is equal to 2% of the votes cast for governor by the voters of that county in the 2014 General Election, rounded up to the next whole number.” Click through to see the minimum amount for each of the 39 counties in IA-04.

King’s only declared Democratic challenger, Kim Weaver, is hurt by donors’ fatalism over the long odds against any Democrat winning this district. Two cycles in a row, Democrats in this district fell way short against King despite running well-funded campaigns (Christie Vilsack in 2012 and Mowrer in 2014). Weaver reported raising $8,324.00 and spending $10,058.50 during the last three months of the year, leaving just $12,849.82 cash on hand as of December 31.

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