Kim Weaver pondering best use for unspent IA-04 campaign funds

Former Congressional candidate Kim Weaver is still exploring ways to make sure money she raised for her campaign will be used to oppose Republican U.S. Representative Steve King. She discussed several options in a telephone interview with Bleeding Heartland on July 17.

Documents filed with the Federal Election Commission show Weaver for Congress had $135,677.70 cash on hand as of June 30, having raised $169,353.55 in the first quarter and $23,878.74 in the second quarter.

Most of Weaver’s donations came in during the last three weeks of March, after King made national news for posting on Twitter, “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.” In fact, Weaver raised more money that month than she had as King’s opponent during the entire 2016 election cycle.

Weaver told me no donors have asked for their money back. Her campaign will work with ActBlue to refund any contributions recorded after she withdrew as a candidate in early June. The second-quarter filing does not list any itemized contributions from June, but many of Weaver’s donors gave small amounts online. Contributions below $200 need not be itemized.

In the Facebook post announcing her decision to withdraw from the IA-04 race, Weaver wrote,

Although I’m stepping down as a candidate, I still passionately support the defeat of Steve King. I will remain a part of the effort for a future candidate in this district, as well as help to elect a Democratic Governor and other Democrats across Iowa.

In this effort, the funds we raised will be distributed within the district to continue to oppose Steve King.

We’ve started a significant movement in this district, and it’s important to see that progress continue. I’ve said from the beginning that this isn’t about me–it’s about unseating Steve King and gaining real representation for the 4th District of Iowa.

During our interview, Weaver said the campaign will have only minor expenses going forward, such as to pay a compliance consultant and the remainder of her contract for the voter file. She wants the rest of her unspent funds “to benefit whoever’s going to be the candidate in the fourth. But trying to figure out how to do that is challenging.”

Weaver has spoken with three Democrats who are considering this race: Spencer City Council member and small business owner Leann Jacobsen, former Sioux City baseball player J.D. Scholten, and a person she didn’t name, who is not ready to discuss the idea publicly. When the field is set, she’d like to send an e-mail to her campaign list, introducing her supporters to King’s challengers and linking to the new candidates’ websites. Weaver hasn’t ruled out giving $2,000 to each of the Democrats who declare. Under federal law, her committee can donate a maximum of $2,000 before the 2018 primary and $2,000 after the primary to another candidate’s committee.

Another possibility would be to give the bulk of her unspent funds to the Iowa Democratic Party. “I’ve been trying to figure out if there’s a legal way to donate it, and then basically have it go toward next year’s coordinated campaign”–the Democratic voter turnout operation–in the fourth Congressional district. Weaver has been talking with interim party chair Andrea Phillips and raised the topic in her recent conversations with Julie Stauch and Troy Price, the leading candidates for state party chair. (Weaver serves on the State Central Committee, which will elect a new chair on July 22.)

Weaver could transfer her campaign funds to the federal account associated with the Iowa Democratic Party’s fourth Congressional district committee. But that committee is subject to the same limits on how much they can give the eventual nominee in IA-04.

“I just want to make sure that the money is spent for the fourth district and not funneled, you know, other places,” Weaver told me. “You know, the fourth district has been ignored and kind of the red-headed step-child for years, and I don’t want that to happen.” Furthermore, Weaver thinks–and I concur–that “helping the fourth will also help whoever we have running statewide.”

IA-04 is difficult territory: its 39 counties contain 119,151 active registered Democrats, 191,512 Republicans, and 172,780 no-party voters, according to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office. Voters there favored Donald Trump in last year’s presidential election by a 60.9 percent to 33.5 percent margin and re-elected King with 61.2 percent of the vote. Some activists in the IA-04 counties feel the state party uses King’s odious comments to raise money but rarely invests in supporting Democratic efforts in their part of Iowa.

Weaver said some people have claimed, wrongly, that she promised to distribute the funds among county parties. A longtime chair of O’Brien County Democrats, Weaver is concerned that giving directly to county committees might not help the Congressional candidate next year. “I’d like to give some to some of the counties that help, that put money toward the coordinated [campaign] offices, but then the conundrum there is, do you take away the incentive for them to raise money?” Weaver wonders.

She wants to provide additional support in the fourth district and not just replace money county committees would have raised through other means. “I want it to make a difference. I want it to make a difference and [have] an impact. Because I know how hard it is to raise money.” To that end, she may offer matching gifts to counties that bring in contributions for GOTV by a certain date.

Another option would be to give part of her campaign funds to political action committees or super-PACs that will do opposition work against King. Weaver hasn’t ruled out that approach but needs to do further research on the PACs.

Weaver wanted to dispel some rumors about her plans. She hasn’t already given money to other candidates, and “There’s no big conspiracy that I’m hoarding the money. I want to make sure it goes to the right place.” Federal law prohibits putting campaign funds to personal use in any event. “Everybody and their dog is calling me wanting money,” but “I have to justify where this money goes. […] It’s not my money, it’s [donors’] money.”

Weaver is in no hurry to decide, since the primary is nearly a year away, and there’s no legal deadline for her to distribute the funds quickly. “I would rather do what’s best than jump and do something” and later realize she could have used the money more effectively.

“I’ve had all these people ask me for money, and I say, ‘How is that going to help the fourth district?’ And it’s not,” Weaver said near the end of our interview. “I feel a heavy burden to make the right decision as to where it goes, and what’s the best way to do it, and what will hit Steve King the most.”

King’s never been a powerhouse in the fundraising department, and he doesn’t appear worried about his 2018 re-election prospects. His campaign reported contributions totaling $34,297.16 in the first quarter and $58,163.52 in the second quarter, extremely low numbers for an entrenched Congressional incumbent. As of June 30, King’s campaign had $46,821.95 cash on hand.

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  • Not a campaign finance lawyer

    But if she is concerned about county parties simply using her donation in lieu of other fundraising, could she do it as a matching fund?

  • True Blue & Solidly So

    Thanks extended from a chair on the front stoop of this Democrat’s modest South Des Moines abode on this warm July 19, 2017 evening. Ms. Weaver’s past campaign and her efforts to find the best way with unspent campaign dollars to bring both good conscience and leadership to Washington, replacing the unconscionable and blasphemously ego-centric Mr. King, will enable a path to success for another brace soul Congressional victory will one-day be seen as “historical.” And will be found to redefine the role of candidate and Congressional Representative from this Heartland state.