Photo of Christina Bohannan at the Polk County Steak Fry in September 2022 is by Greg Hauenstein and published with permission.
The latest batch of Federal Election Commission quarterly filings from Congressional candidates contained one Iowa surprise: Democratic challenger Christina Bohannan substantially outraised U.S. Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks during the third quarter.
Bohannan’s campaign for Iowa’s first district reported raising $663,417.54, of which nearly all ($644,805.03) came from individual donors. Five political action committees donated a total of $12,012.51, and the candidate gave $6,600.
Miller-Meeks’ campaign reported raising $467,286.85, but only $225,385.34 of the total came from individuals. As was the case during the first and second quarters of 2023, the majority of funds donated to the incumbent’s campaign came from PACs or other political committees.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM BOHANNAN’S FUNDRAISING REPORT
It’s notable that Bohannan launched her latest IA-01 campaign in mid-August, so was only fundraising for about a month and a half of the reporting period (July through October), while Miller-Meeks could raise money for the entire third quarter.
The Bohannan campaign said in an October 9 news release that the amount raised “marks the largest quarterly haul in an off-year, as well as the largest opening quarter, for a challenger candidate in Iowa.” They added, “70% of contributors are from Iowa, showing southeast Iowans are excited for new leadership as Mariannette Miller-Meeks and House Republicans continue to prove they’re incapable of getting things done.”
I counted 28 individuals who have already contributed $6,600, the maximum amount donors can give Congressional candidates for the 2024 election cycle. So $184,800 of the third-quarter intake came from individuals who cannot donate again to Bohannan’s campaign this cycle. The vast majority of her individual donors could give again, however.
Prominent Iowans who have already maxed out to Bohannan include 2018 nominee for governor Fred Hubbell, Charlotte Hubbell, and Fred Weitz.
Bohannan ran a relatively lean operation during her first bid for Congress, and that remains the case so far this year. Her campaign reported spending just $52,575.83 during the third quarter. Operating costs should increase going forward, since the campaign’s biggest expenses (salaries and payroll taxes) were incurred for only about half of the third quarter.
As of September 30, the campaign had $636,586.77 cash on hand, a big number for a non-incumbent. As a first-time Congressional candidate, Bohannan raised and spent more than $3.1 million during the 2022 cycle, and she may be on track to do that again.
Strong fundraising is critical for challengers, in part because incumbents usually have a large war chest, and also to encourage outside groups to invest in the race. As Bleeding Heartland has previously discussed, Democratic-aligned groups mostly sat out the 2022 race in IA-01, spending less than $100,000 to promote Bohannan or criticize Miller-Meeks. In contrast, Republican-aligned groups spent more than $2.7 million during the 2022 cycle on messaging that supported Miller-Meeks or opposed Bohannan.
MILLER-MEEKS GETS A LOT OF HELP FROM HER FRIENDS
Members of Congress typically have a financial advantage over their challengers, as they receive support from numerous PACs and committees linked to their U.S. House colleagues. That’s even more true for Republican incumbents, since the wealthiest Americans (whose donations power leadership funds) tend to prefer the GOP.
The 3Q filing from Miller-Meeks’ campaign follows the usual pattern for her. As mentioned above, total receipts were $467,286.85, of which $225,385.34 came from individuals.
A long list of corporate or conservative PACs, as well as committees controlled by other House Republicans, donated a total of $145,750 from July through September. The Miller-Meeks campaign also received $96,151.51 in transfers from two other committees: Protect the House 2024 (a committee linked to former U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy), and the Miller-Meeks Victory Fund.
It was a similar story earlier in the year. In the first quarter of 2023, Miller-Meeks’ campaign raised $211,031.83 from individuals (less than a third of her total haul). She brought in $326,250 from PACs or political committees, and $153,405.77 in transfers from Protect the House 2024, the Miller-Meeks Victory Fund, and GOP Winning Women 2024. In the second quarter, the campaign raised $202,222.46 from individuals, $248,707.23 from PACs, and $184,136.50 in transfers.
Three individuals maxed out to Miller-Meeks’ campaign during the most recent reporting period. Two others contributed $6,600 during the first quarter, and nine did during the second quarter. That’s $92,400 total from individuals who can’t donate to Miller-Meeks again this cycle.
The incumbent has also received quite a few $6,600 donations from individuals through transfers from Protect the House 2024, GOP Winning Women 2024, or the Miller-Meeks Victory Fund. Those people also will not be able to donate to her campaign again this cycle.
Well-known people who have maxed out to Miller-Meeks through a transfer from another fund include Harlan Crow (a benefactor of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas), Paul Singer (a benefactor of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito), Ross Perot Jr. (the son of the 1992 and 1996 presidential candidate), and Stephen Wynn (a former Republican National Committee finance chair who resigned amid allegations of sexual harassment and assault). University of Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz and his wife Mary Ferentz each gave $6,500.
One question mark for Miller-Meeks and other House Republicans who depend on transfers from other committees: will fundraising for their caucus members drop off now that McCarthy is no longer the speaker? The likely next speaker of the House, Jim Jordan, is a much more polarizing figure than McCarthy.
Compared to some incumbents (like Iowa’s Ashley Hinson), Miller-Meeks runs a lean operation. Nevertheless, her campaign spent $227,203.47 in the third quarter, much more than Bohannan. The largest expenditures were for various forms of consulting.
Miller-Meeks’ operating costs were higher in the spring and early summer. Her campaign reported $199,634.91 in total disbursements for the first quarter, but spent $317,534.05 during the second quarter, of which more than $150,000 went toward fundraising consulting alone.
The incumbent’s campaign transferred $50,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee (the main campaign arm of House Republicans) in the first quarter, and another $50,000 in the second quarter, but nothing in the latest reporting period.
As of September 30, the Miller-Meeks campaign had $1,384,283.63 cash on hand, more than double what was in the challenger’s campaign bank account.
For background on the political make-up of IA-01, click here. The 20 counties in the district are the orange ones on this map.