Iowa Congressional 1Q 2016 fundraising news roundup

You'd never guess Representative Steve King was facing a primary challenger backed by Iowans with deep pockets by looking at Federal Election Commission filings alone. King isn't raising money like an incumbent who's worried about getting re-elected, and his Republican opponent Rick Bertrand didn't disclose any fundraising or spending.

Follow me after the jump for highlights from all the first quarter FEC reports from Iowa's U.S. House candidates. One Democrat out-raised all four of our state's incumbents, and another Democrat nearly did so.


First-term Republican Representative Rod Blum had his biggest quarterly cash haul ever (not counting the time he loaned his own campaign half a million dollars). During the first three months of 2016, Blum's campaign reported raising $174,673.40 from individuals and $116,500.00 from a wide range of corporate and conservative political action committees, some affiliated with fellow House Republicans. A transfer of $1,817.71 from a joint fundraiser brought his campaign's total receipts to $292,991.11 for the first quarter.

As is typical for him, Blum spent modestly on his campaign, reporting $52,297.84 in expenditures from January through March. The largest expenses went toward fundraising and direct mail. Blum's campaign also refunded one $2,700 contribution, leaving $1,273,400.94 cash on hand at the end of the quarter, plus unpaid bills totaling $19,863.10. One of those outstanding expenses was $4,119.00 for the internal poll Blum announced recently. His campaign is still carrying $600,000 in loans the candidate provided during 2014 and 2015.

With Gary Kroeger ending his Congressional campaign to run for Iowa House district 60, only two Democratic candidates remain in IA-01.

Support from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and EMILY's List helped Monica Vernon raise $335,052.47 during the first quarter--more than any of Iowa's U.S. House incumbents. Her campaign brought in $258,497.67 came from individuals and $76,554.80 from PACs--a high number for a challenger. Most of the PAC money came from committees affiliated with labor unions, progressive groups, or U.S. House Democrats.

Vernon's campaign reported spending $168,027.45 during the first quarter, which is quite a lot. The biggest single expenditure was $56,500 for media production, presumably for the television commercial that started running this past week. Staff salaries and other routine campaign costs accounted for most of the other spending. As of March 31, Vernon had $774,631.23 cash on hand. The campaign is still carrying $125,800.00 in loans from the candidate during 2015, but Vernon did not make any new loans during the latest reporting period.

Pat Murphy's campaign reported raising $55,459.00 during the first quarter, mostly from individuals. Three PACs gave a total of $6,000. After spending $53,477.33 on typical expenses, Murphy had $88,477.43 cash on hand as of March 31. That's enough money for a district-wide campaign before the June 7 primary, but less than half of Murphy's war chest at this point in the 2014 race. He won't be able to run four rounds of tv ads like he did en route to winning the nomination last cycle. Vernon entered the last two months of this year's campaign with more than two and a half times as much cash as she had at this point two years ago, when she finished second in the five-way primary.


Five-term Representative Dave Loebsack, the only Iowa Democrat left in Congress, reported raising $151,743.76 during the first quarter, of which $78,743.76 came from individuals and $73,000.00 from a mix of corporate and labor PACs.

Loebsack's campaign spent $70,727.46 during the reporting period; nothing struck me as unusual on his itemized expenditure list. As of March 31, the cash on hand total was $640,794.35, putting the incumbent a little ahead of where he was at the same point in the 2014 and 2012 election cycles.

At this writing, I have not seen a campaign finance report for Dr. Christopher Peters, Loebsack's Republican opponent. He filed a statement of candidacy on March 13, shortly after making his campaign public at Republican county conventions. Perhaps he did not raise or spend enough money before March 31 to trigger requirements to report on fundraising.


First-term Republican David Young improved on last quarter's fundraising, mainly because more PACs donated to his campaign. During the first three months of 2016, Young raised $217,569.00: $56,319.00 from individuals and $161,250.00 from a long list of corporate or conservative PACs. Transferring $6,871.07 from another campaign account brought Young's total receipts for the quarter to $224,440.07.

Young spent even less than Blum did during the quarter, reporting $48,735.96 in campaign expenditures and $2,000 in contribution refunds (to Iowans for Latham) for total disbursements of $50,735.96. Young doesn't appear to have any full-time staff working on his campaign yet; the largest expenditures were for fundraising, consulting, media services, catering, and software. He was able to close out the quarter with $956,096.10 cash on hand and will have far more money to take into the general election campaign than he did two years ago. Young didn't make any new loans to his campaign this year, but his campaign is still carrying $250,000 in personal loans from the candidate during the 2014 election cycle. His campaign also reported $22,400 in unpaid bills.

Among Young's three Democratic opponents, Jim Mowrer raised the most money in the first three months of the year: $291,911.59, mostly from individuals. Eight labor and progressive PACs chipped in a total of $19,250, and $2,428.21 in offsets brought Mowrer's total receipts for the quarter to $294,339.80. That's nearly double what his campaign raised during the last three months of 2015. It's also more than incumbents Loebsack, Young, or Steve King raised during the quarter and only a little less than Blum's intake.

Mowrer's campaign reported spending $93,726.59; the biggest expenses were for staff salaries, fundraising consulting, databases, and printing costs. Small loan repayments and contribution refunds pushed the total quarterly disbursements to $96,356.75. As of March 31, the campaign had $437,635.19 cash on hand--more than enough for district-wide paid media before the June 7 primary. UPDATE: Since the Sherzan campaign has tested messages about Mowrer using campaign funds to benefit himself, I should note that Mowrer's wife is employed by the campaign. Many candidates have hired immediate family members as campaign staffers (see the section below about Representative Steve King). I don't consider the practice a problem as long as the person is being paid a reasonable salary and is actually doing the work.

Mike Sherzan raised just $24,921.64 during the quarter, all from individuals (including $961.64 from the candidate). He also loaned his campaign $98,000.00, adding to the $200,000 loan he provided in late 2015. Those loans will cover a substantial paid media effort before the primary.

Sherzan's campaign spent $134,847.50 during the quarter. The largest expenses were for salaries, consulting, and research by the Greenberg Quinlan Rosner firm (Bleeding Heartland covered one internal poll for Sherzan here). There were also several payments to a union printing shop. This past week many Democratic households received two direct mailers from the Sherzan campaign. Bleeding Heartland posted the images and text from the first here. The second hit similar themes, with more of a focus on values the candidate learned growing up on the east side of Des Moines. A $2,500.00 sponsorship for a Democratic event brought the total quarterly disbursements to $137,347.50. As of March 31, Sherzan's campaign had $205,861.23 cash on hand.

Desmund Adams reported raising $23,540.00 during the quarter, all from individuals and mostly from Iowans. After spending $24,832.89, mostly on typical expenditures such as payroll, consulting fees, and printing costs, the campaign had $2,644.47 cash on hand as of March 31, with unpaid bills totaling $11,110.25. Adams has said he is running a different kind of campaign, citing coalition-building among key Democratic constituencies. He will need a strong outreach effort to be competitive in the primary.


I wonder whether any Republican who has served in the U.S. House as long as Representative Steve King raises less money. During the first quarter, his campaign brought in $144,152.64, of which $108,152.64 came from individuals and $36,000 from PACs (a relatively low total for a House Republican). Although a primary challenger emerged in King's district last month, the incumbent raised only a little more during the first quarter than during the last three months of 2015.

King spent $95,172.30 on a typical mix of expenses. His son and daughter-in-law are still the campaign's primary employees, as has been true during most of King's Congressional bids. (In contrast, he brought in a team of professionals to run his 2012 race against Christie Vilsack in a substantially redrawn district.) As of March 31, King's campaign had $172,781.39 cash on hand. When he was worried about his re-election in 2012, King built a much larger war chest.

King's primary challenger, State Senator Rick Bertrand, did not file a quarterly report with the FEC. Bret Hayworth reported for the Sioux City Journal, "Because Bertrand, a state senator from Sioux City, hasn't filed to officially become a federal candidate with the FEC, he is not subject to the requirement to file a report for the three-month period ending March 31." (Indeed, no documents from Bertrand's campaign can be found on the FEC's website yet.) Perhaps Bertrand didn't raise enough money to trigger reporting requirements, but that would be surprising, since he announced his candidacy on March 17. There is a "donate now" button on his Congressional campaign website.

I will update this post as needed. Bertrand's supporters include Bruce Rastetter, a top Iowa Republican donor, and Nick Ryan, who has plenty of experience making independent expenditures in Congressional races. King has been trying to define Bertrand as a creature of wealthy interests, and the lack of transparency surrounding his campaign's donors plays into that image. Second quarter FEC reports are due more than a month after the June 7 primary. UPDATE/CLARIFICATION: Bertrand will have to file a pre-primary report with the FEC by May 26, covering his fundraising and spending between April 1 and May 18.

Democratic challenger Kim Weaver reported raising $14,753.00 during the first quarter, all from individuals (the $2,800.00 listed as coming from political committees were individual donations routed through Act Blue). After spending $9,986.37, mostly on payroll, Weaver's campaign had $15,345.45 cash on hand as of March 31.

Any comments about Iowa's U.S. House races are welcome in this thread.

UPDATE: Vernon's campaign was out with a press release on April 18 touting the fundraising numbers (emphasis in original).

Vernon Top Democratic Fundraiser in Iowa

CEDAR RAPIDS - Monica Vernon was the #1 fundraiser in the state among Democrats and continues to outraise her opponents, both Republican and Democrat, according to the first FEC filing for 2016. Vernon reported raising over $1,285,000 from nearly 5,000 contributors for the cycle and raised over $335,000 to kickoff 2016, which is more than six times as much as Democrat Pat Murphy who only reported raising $55,589. Vernon reported $774,000 cash-on-hand, nearly nine times that of Democrat Pat Murphy who ended the quarter with $88,477 cash-on-hand. Vernon also bested Tea Party Republican Congressman Rod Blum, who reported raising $291,173.

"Monica continues to be the only candidate building the coalition of labor unions, grassroots activists and Democratic leaders it's going to take to win this district back" said Vernon's Campaign Manager Michelle Gajewski. "Hardworking families across northeast Iowa know Monica will never stop working for them, whether it's protecting Social Security and Medicare or investing in our children's education, they trust Monica to get the job done."

In addition to her huge fundraising advantage, Monica Vernon has racked up every single endorsement made this cycle by elected Democratic leaders, notable endorsers include:
Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller
Congressman Dave Loebsack
Christie Vilsack
Senate President Pam Jochum
She is also strongly favored by Iowa labor, notable labor union endorsements include:
American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE)
United Food and Commercial Workers Locals (UFCW) 431 & 1149
Carpenters Local 308
Plumbers, Fitters, Welders and HVAC Service Techs Local 125
Cedar Rapids/Iowa City Building Trades Council
Teamsters Local 238
Ironworkers Local 89
Great Plains Laborers’ District Council
Sheet Metal Workers Local 263
The Vernon campaign launched its first television ad last week: WATCH HERE.

  • Would have been interesting to note...

    that Mowrer has continued paying his wife a salary. As far as I'm aware she doesn't have any campaign experience, so what is his reasoning?

    • it's not that unusual

      for candidates to have immediate family members working on a campaign. I don't know her work background, but lots of people can do office management tasks.

      • But

        He paid himself when he ran against King. When that stopped he started paying his wife. That's what gets me. I guess that isn't illegal?

        • it's not illegal

          I looked up the FEC rules on this.

          • You are right, but he did break the law

            It isn't Illegal to pay yourself, but he kept paying himself for months after the election, which is illegal. Pretty cut an dry.

  • Blum

    Did i miss it, or did Blum not pay for any staff? Is this unusual, or does his Congressional staff "double-dip" as campaign staff? Or does he outsource to consultants instead?

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