District 38: a closer look at finances

Having looked at the races in District 37 yesterday, I know you’re waiting with bated breath for the really important one here in District 38 which will come at the end. (Always leave them wanting more.)

As opposed to the competition going on in its western neighbor, many District 38 denizens have their Delegates already all but selected. Barring a successful write-in campaign, both Delegate Carl Anderton, Jr. and Wayne Hartman will be representing their districts in January.

So let me review the parameters: I have pored over the campaign finance reports from each candidate submitted to the state Board of Elections beginning with the 2017 annual that covers from January of 2016. From there I subdivided contributions into five loose categories:

  • Donations from individuals within the area. For this exercise, the “area” is defined for both local districts as an address with a 216xx or 218xx zip code. Yes, the 216xx zip area is well outside the 38th District but it allows me apples-to-apples comparison with District 37 hopefuls – and there really aren’t a significant number of them, anyway.
  • Donations from individuals outside the 216xx and 218xx zip code area.
  • Donations from businesses within the area. Included in the definition of businesses are LLCs, LPs, and PAs.
  • Donations from businesses outside the area.
  • Donations from PACs. As a way of simplifying this, this also includes transfers from other campaign accounts, and (at my discretion) certain entities that were recognizable as similar to a political action committee, including larger businesses, unions, and governmental entities.

Having these all categorized and built into a spreadsheet, I can figure out several things: proportion of donations coming from each group, proportion of donations inside/outside the area, and an average donation. In many cases, I can compare and contrast candidates – but not always. Read on and you’ll find out why.

House District 38A:

Incumbent Republican (since 2010) Charles Otto vs. Democrat Kirkland Hall, Sr.

For Charles Otto:

  • 2 donations from individuals in area for $525
  • 1 donation from an individual outside of area for $250
  • 2 donations from businesses in area for $450
  • No donations from businesses outside of area
  • 6 donations from PACs and other committees for $4,600
  • Average donation: $529.55
  • Cash on hand (bank account balance) – $15,361.57

Because of one huge PAC donation of $2,500 skewing the results, just 16.7% of Otto’s money came from inside the area, with only 4.3% coming from outside the area and a whopping 79% from PACs and other committees. Out of the 21% coming from individuals and businesses, 13.3% was out of individual pockets and 7.7% was from local businesses.

Since 2010 Charles has had an outstanding loan to his campaign for $22,500. But as you can see, Otto doesn’t make a great effort to supplement his campaign with fundraising – it’s almost like an accident when someone sends him a check given that he’s only had 11 in over 2 1/2 years. Being his treasurer is almost as easy as being mine was.

Having said that, though, Otto is far more circumspect than his opponent.

This is what I found for Kirkland Hall. The first link is a screenshot taken of his most current campaign finance entity, taken yesterday on the Maryland SBE site. The second link is a different screenshot of another open – but considered inactive – campaign finance account for Kirkland Hall. This would appear to be a successful run for the Somerset County Democrat Central Committee. Unlike what I did for my three runs, apparently the account was never officially closed.

Hall has sent in ALCEs for 2 of the reporting periods, so we don’t have financial details of his campaign. But here’s the important issue – Hall is now overdue on his campaign finance reports for two consecutive reporting periods, the latest expiring in August. Enough days have elapsed since the first one was due to incur the maximum $500 fine, and he’s $180 and counting for this most recent period.

This is a screenshot of Kirkland Hall’s present campaign committee. Note the fines for lack of reporting at the bottom.

Note he was also a scofflaw on the 2018 Annual Report before fimally filing, with another $500 fine that was paid. And it’s not like he wasn’t warned about the May report. Yet the Hall campaign has been actively seeking financing during the time they were delinquent:

And as I can attest, his opponent doesn’t have “big money” flowing into his campaign – unless you count one $2,500 donation that came from the Maryland Farm Bureau PAC. But we don’t know how much Kirkland has because they’re not being forthcoming with their information. Could this be an intentional oversight as this is his campaign’s third offense?

On the other hand, the situation is much calmer in the other two District 38 subdistricts.

House District 38B:

Incumbent Republican Carl Anderton, Jr (since 2014) is unopposed.

For Carl Anderton:

  • 98 donations from individuals inside the area for $9,318
  • 12 donations from individuals outside the area for $2,350
  • 13 donations from businesses in area for $3,750
  • 4 donations from businesses outside the area for $1,500
  • 15 donations from PACs and other committees for $5,250
  • Average donation: $156.11
  • Cash on hand (bank account balance) – $21,048.02

58.9% of his money came from inside the area, with 17.4% coming from outside the area and 23.7% from PACs and other committees. Out of the 76.3% coming from individuals and businesses, 52.6% was out of individual pockets and 23.7% came from businesses.

However, once it became obvious that Carl would not have an opponent his fundraising has all but ceased – since the 2018 report came due in January he’s only picked up a total of $1,850.

House District 38C:

Incumbent Republican Mary Beth Carozza opted to run for Senate, leaving an open seat. Wayne Hartman won the June 26 primary and is only opposed in the General Election by write-in candidate Ed Tinus – one of those Hartman defeated in the primary.

For Wayne Hartman:

  • 83 donations from individuals inside the area for $31,255
  • 16 donations from individuals outside the area for $5,920
  • 45 donations from businesses in area for $29,208
  • 5 donations from businesses outside the area for $2,329
  • 1 donation from PACs and other committees for $1,000
  • Average donation: $464.75
  • Cash on hand (bank account balance) – $3,477.58

86.7% of Wayne’s money came from inside the area, with 11.8% coming from outside the region and 1.4% coming from a different committee. Out of the non-PAC money, 53.3% of his funding came from individuals and 45.2% from businesses. (Those numbers again fall short of rounding correctly.)

Much like Carl Anderton, Wayne all but ceased active fundraising after the primary. Unlike Carl, though, he still got some big checks – only 7 donations netted Hartman $5,550 – which has kept him in the black for his future plans.

Write-in Ed Tinus has mainly filed ALCEs since he began his campaign account in 2014; however, Ed stepped up his game to file a formal Pre-Primary 2 report that showed he contributed $40 to himself but spent $2,605 to leave himself a negative balance of $2,565.

So the undercard is complete – now comes what you’ve all been waiting for:

Senate District 38:

Republican Delegate Mary Beth Carozza (since 2014) is challenging Democrat Senator (since 2010, Delegate from 2006-2010) Jim Mathias.

For Mary Beth Carozza:

  • 518 donations from individuals inside the area for $112,287
  • 122 donations from individuals outside the area for $23,366.06
  • 79 donations from businesses in area for $44,589.38
  • 18 donations from businesses outside the area for $11,305
  • 45 donations from PACs and other committees for $30,288
  • Average donation: $251.51
  • Cash on hand (bank account balance) – $140,987.98

For Mary Beth, 70.7% of her money came from inside the area, with 15.6% coming from outside the area and 13.7% from PACs and other committees. Out of the 86.3% coming from individuals and businesses, 61.2% was out of individual pockets and 25.2% came from businesses. (It rounds off wrong again.)

This is a sea change from her initial campaign, which saw Mary Beth receive a great deal of money from outside the district from her erstwhile cohorts in Washington, D.C. In the 2014 campaign I wrote:

In her first report that covered the inception of her campaign to the initial days of 2014, over 70% of her funding came from out-of-state, mainly from the Washington, D.C. area and Ohio. Those Ohio connections, as well as work for Maine Sen. Susan Collins, proved valuable in the category of federal committees, as Mary Beth received money from the Buckeye Patriot PAC, Dirigo PAC, and Promoting Our Republican Team PAC, as well as the campaigns of Mike DeWine, Steve Stivers, and Pat Tiberi. DeWine is a former Senator from Ohio who is now the state’s Attorney General, while Stivers and Tiberi currently serve in Congress representing parts of the state.

It appears that Mary Beth has since established the local connections to compete in this race against perhaps the most well-funded incumbent in this portion of the state.

For Jim Mathias:

  • 469 donations from individuals inside the area for $91,115
  • 178 donations from individuals outside the area for $43,127
  • 157 donations from businesses in area for $82,339
  • 106 donations from businesses outside the area for $34,914
  • 301 donations from PACs and other committees for $124,610
  • Average donation: $310.57
  • Cash on hand (bank account balance) – $273,873.43

Jim collected 46.1% of his money from inside the area and 20.7% of his funding from outside this region. More importantly, Mathias collected 33.1% of his donation total from PACs and other committees, including a number of his General Assembly cohorts. (Rounding is off again.) Out of the non-PAC money, Mathias picked up 35.7% from individuals and 31.2% from businesses. It’s perhaps the most well-rounded report of any I’ve done in terms of equality of sources between individuals, businesses, and PACs.

With the exception of the brief Pre-Primary 2 period, though, Carozza has outraised Mathias among local individuals in each reporting period. On the other hand, among individual donors from outside the district Mathias has outgunned Mary Beth almost 2-to-1 with a significant amount from connections from the area surrounding his hometown of Baltimore.

From a business standpoint, Carozza has ate into Jim’s longstanding advantage and outraised him among local businesses in the last reporting period. She’s also negated his advantage among out-of-district businesses over the last three periods.

The biggest fundraising advantage Mathias enjoys, then, is the many thousands of dollars he has received from PACs over the last 2 1/2 years. It’s not that Carozza hasn’t received PAC money, but dozens of PACs in and out of the state have been handing over checks to Jim for several years, building up an intimidating war chest. (One interesting donation: ask the progressives if they appreciate Jim getting a check from the NRA. He did – $500 on January 3, 2018. Or ask the NRA if they really want to give money to someone with Jim’s overall voting record.) But Carozza, unlike Jim’s previous opponent Mike McDermott, has the money to compete in what may be the most-watched race in this part of the state.

Considering that Mathias has more in his bank account than the total of all the other candidates in both District 37 and 38 outside the 38th Senate race, and Carozza isn’t far behind (you would have to exclude Johnny Mautz and his $96k war chest to make it about even) and you can see where the focus will be.

District 37: a closer look at finances

If money is the mother’s milk of politics – at least so it is said – then it’s probably good to know who has the biggest bottles and where the wet nurses are. So I’m beginning a two-part series on the local political races with some observations on the races in District 37.

This year there are three races in District 37 involving seven contenders. Unlike the situation in 2014, the first election involving the current districts, the Republicans found a challenger for District 37A (a majority-minority district) but the Democrats could only find one contender for the two seats available in District 37B. This also presents an interesting possibility: if the order for that two-seat district came in Republican Chris Adams in first, Democrat Dan O’Hare second, and Republican Johnny Mautz third, then Adams and Mautz would still win another term because the two winners in that district cannot represent the same county.

But I’m going to open this with the first race in District 37A. However, before I begin allow me to set the parameters here.

Over the last few days, I have pored over the campaign finance reports from each candidate submitted to the state Board of Elections beginning with the 2017 annual that covers from January of 2016. What I was most interested in, obviously, were the contributions, which I subdivided into five loose categories:

  • Donations from individuals within the area. For this exercise, the “area” is defined for both local districts as an address with a 216xx or 218xx zip code. I know in reality that expands the area into the 36th District, but it makes life much easier when you have hundreds and hundreds of line items to contend with.
  • Donations from individuals outside the 216xx and 218xx zip code area.
  • Donations from businesses within the area. Included in the definition of businesses are LLCs, LPs, and PAs.
  • Donations from businesses outside the area.
  • Donations from PACs. As a way of simplifying this, this also includes transfers from other campaign accounts, and (at my discretion) certain entities that were recognizable as similar to a political action committee, including larger businesses, unions, and governmental entities.

Having these all categorized and built into a spreadsheet, I can figure out several things: proportion of donations coming from each group, proportion of donations inside/outside the area, and an average donation. In many cases, I can compare and contrast candidates – but not always. Read on and you’ll find out why.

House District 37A:

Republican Frank Cooke vs. incumbent Democrat (since 2014) Sheree Sample-Hughes.

For Frank Cooke:

  • 1 donation from an individual in area for $100
  • No donations from individuals outside of area
  • No donations from businesses in area
  • No donations from businesses outside of area
  • No donations from PACs and other committees
  • Average donation: $100.00
  • Cash on hand (bank account balance) – $2,504.69

100% of money comes from individuals, 100% comes from inside the area.

According to Frank’s last report, which supplants the ALCEs he previously filed (it covers from February to August), Cooke has a bank account balance over $2,000 yet there’s no indication how it got there. (Unless he raised it after the previous Pre-Primary 2 filing deadline, he should not have filed an ALCE for previous reports because he had raised more than $1,000.) He also has an outstanding obligation to his campaign of $574.54 that is noted as being from a predecessor campaign, presumably for the city of Cambridge.

It’s not a district where you need a ton of money to win but this raises a lot more questions than it answers about the Cooke campaign, especially this one: why such a late start to get serious about fundraising?

For Sheree Sample-Hughes:

  • 119 donations from individuals inside the area for $10,944
  • 17 donations from individuals outside the area for $1,345
  • 20 donations from businesses in area for $3,690
  • 35 donations from businesses outside the area for $8,825.36
  • 72 donations from PACs and other committees for $20,350
  • Average donation: $178.47
  • Cash on hand (bank account balance) – $17,447.05

32.4% of her money came from inside the area, 22.5% from outside the area, and 45.1% from PACs and other committees. Out of the 54.9% from individuals and businesses, 27.2% was raised from individuals and 27.7% was from businesses.

Note that I did not pore over the reports with a fine-toothed comb to see if any money was collected during session (a no-no.) However, the amount of PAC money Sample-Hughes received seemed a little out of line with most of the others.

House District 37B:

Incumbent Republicans Christopher Adams and Johnny Mautz (both since 2014) vs. Democrat Dan O’Hare.

For Christopher Adams:

  • 82 donations from individuals inside the area for $26,474
  • 11 donations from individuals outside the area for $1,310
  • 28 donations from businesses in area for $15,585
  • 26 donations from businesses outside the area for $8,900
  • 27 donations from PACs and other committees for $10,200
  • Average donation: $359.02
  • Cash on hand (bank account balance) – $1,470.52

67.3% of his money came from inside the area, with an almost dead even 16.3% coming from outside the area and 16.3% from PACs and other committees. Out of the 83.6% coming from individuals and businesses, 44.5% was out of individual pockets and 39.2% was businesses.  (The numbers don’t round up to 100%.)

Two interesting recent developments from the Adams camp: while the last report noted Adams had a $7,500 loan out to his campaign that dated from 2014, he had also recently repaid back $60,000 he had owed, which certainly would explain the low cash on hand despite taking in over $60,000. The campaign also has one outstanding bill for $183.70, which could be an oversight given the cash on hand.

For Johnny Mautz:

  • 293 donations from individuals inside the area for $100,550
  • 110 donations from individuals outside the area for $39,065
  • 81 donations from businesses in area for $23,660
  • 51 donations from businesses outside the area for $13,150
  • 96 donations from PACs and other committees for $31,800
  • Average donation: $329.99
  • Cash on hand (bank account balance) – $96,408.31

59.7% of his money came from inside the area, with 25.1% coming from outside the region and 15.3% coming from PACs. Out of the non-PAC money, 67.1% of his funding came from individuals and 17.7% from businesses. (Again those numbers don’t round quite correctly.) The piece that stuck out at me regarding Mautz was just how well-heeled his donors were, but this reflects his St. Michaels base as well as his background as a Congressional staffer – a number of donations came from the capital region, presumably fellows from his days there. It’s a sharp contrast to the Adams base, which is more in the middle-class Salisbury area. (This is true despite the lower per-donation figure – Mautz has a far larger volume of contributions than Adams does.)

For Dan O’Hare:

  • 59 donations from individuals inside the area for $9,608
  • 54 donations from individuals outside the area for $5,387.42
  • 1 donation from a business in the area for $200
  • No donations from a business outside the area
  • 2 donations from PACs and other committees for $400
  • Average donation: $134.44
  • Cash on hand (bank account balance) – $10,371.09

62.9% of his money came from inside the area, with 34.5% coming from outside the area and just 2.6% from other committees. Out of the 97.4% coming from individuals and businesses, 96.2% was out of individual pockets and 1.3% was businesses. (Yet another rounding error.)

The strangest thing about O’Hare’s pattern of receiving is that the donations outside the area are almost as numerous as the ones from inside. These come from 13 different states but seem to be clustered quite a bit around the New York City metro. (There is some member of the O’Hare family that lives there.) So it will be worth seeing in the next report whether he has more local support.

Senate District 37:

Incumbent Republican Addie Eckardt (since 2014, previously in House of Delegates 1994-2014) vs. Democrat Holly Wright.

For Addie Eckardt:

  • 264 donations from individuals inside the area for $37,935
  • 21 donations from individuals outside the area for $3,025
  • 35 donations from businesses in area for $8,570
  • 14 donations from businesses outside the area for $5,925
  • 54 donations from PACs and other committees for $20,350
  • Average donation: $193.38
  • Cash on hand (bank account balance) – $69,126.05

61.3% of her money came from inside the area, with 11.8% coming from outside the area and 26.8% from PACs and other committees. Out of the 73.2% coming from individuals and businesses, 54% was out of individual pockets and 19.1% was businesses. (And again: the numbers don’t round up to 100%.) There’s nothing overly unusual about Addie’s report that I found – maybe a little PAC-heavy compared to the Republican Delegates but not as high as Sample-Hughes.

For Holly Wright:

  • 117 donations from individuals inside the area for $17,380
  • 10 donations from individuals outside the area for $1,050
  • No donations from businesses in area
  • No donations from businesses outside the area
  • No donations from PACs and other committees
  • Average donation: $145.12
  • Cash on hand (bank account balance) – $5,106.52

While all of her money came from individual donations, Holly’s proportion of funding from inside to outside the area was a whopping 94.3% to 5.7%. In essence, hers is the prototypical homegrown campaign – but considering she’s already behind in votes based on primary results, that’s not a good situation for Wright to pull an upset. It could work in a single-seat Delegate race, but isn’t as likely to succeed in a large district like District 37, especially with a decent-sized media market. Even the possible upside for her of having two walkover races in the adjoining district sharing the Salisbury media market (thus, perhaps cheaper media buys due to less demand) is negated by a heavyweight fight I’ll discuss in my second installment covering those District 38 races.

A valid complaint?

August 15, 2018 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2018, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on A valid complaint? 

As of Monday the on-ballot field for Maryland’s U.S. Senate seat was set. While three candidates set out to be placed on the ballot by petition, only one succeeded and that’s centrist independent Neal Simon.

One point that has been made about Simon’s run is that it’s eerily reminiscent of a similar effort the last time Ben Cardin was on the ballot. In 2012, as a Senator seeking re-election for the first time, Cardin was placed against a young, dynamic candidate in Dan Bongino who was a TEA Party favorite. Nearly three months after the primary, two-time GOP primary loser Rob Sobhani jumped into the race as an independent candidate. While polling data suggests Cardin would have won the race in either case (he received 56% of the final vote) there can be an argument made that having the third candidate, who was also running in a populist, change-oriented lane – Sobhani’s big idea was government investing in a series of public-private partnerships, perhaps because he saw an opportunity to help his investment firm – may have chopped Bongino’s already underfunded campaign off at the knees. FEC records show that Sobhani loaned himself nearly $8 million to run the race. That was 98% of his campaign income.

Fast forward six years and in comes another financial guru in Neal Simon. However, there are some differences – not the least of which is that Simon has “only” contributed about $550,000 to his own campaign so far.

Unlike the Sobhani effort, which was basically self-funded, Simon is getting a lot of outside help. But I found it interesting that many of the high-dollar, maximum donations come from out of state and from couples who are maxing out as husband and wife (or in one case, father and college-age daughter) where the woman’s occupation is listed as “homemaker” or (in the case of the daughter) “student” – yet they apparently have $5,400 lying around to donate to the primary and general campaigns. (That’s interesting as well, since Simon had no primary as an unaffiliated candidate. Yet it is perfectly legal.)

The theory floating around is, of course, that Simon is a Democrat plant whose purpose is to split the GOP vote. But after spending a few evenings poring over the contribution data from this subset of “max donors” – those who have added $2,700 or more to the Simon kitty – I tend to doubt this idea. Out of 91 donors who I checked via the OpenSecrets website, which categorizes donations to federal candidates, there were 17 who had no record of donating before. This only seems unusual because most people start out small and work their way up, not drop up to $10,800 as a couple into a political campaign as their first contribution.

But the political leanings of these more regular donors spanned the gamut, from huge donors to Democrats and their causes to a handful that could be described as staunch Republicans. (One of those is the wife of a social media friend I often see promoting the Hogan re-election campaign.) Overall I would describe the donor list as skewing Democrat, but there are a few who are big believers in the centrist advocacy group Unite America (whose logo and color scheme is very much like Simon’s) and a PAC called People Over Politics (not to be confused with a hardcore leftist advocacy website.) The People Over Politics PAC has several Simon donors as its main base of support and guess what they are spending on?

Now that pushes up a few red flags – as well as the question about working around individual donation limits given the amount this PAC has raised from just six donors. Out of the six, only one has been heavily into politics prior to this, and he’s been a relatively faithful GOP donor. So why the change? Let’s look at what Simon says. (Yes, I intended the pun.)

His top issue is – of course – one of unity, and bringing us together. Now I can’t argue with the idea but that doesn’t give me much in the way of principles.

Next up is the idea of changing how Washington works. I’m cool with the ideas of independent commissions to create legislative districts and term limits, but I have to know more about the concepts of the new Senate rules Neal favors. On the other hand, I don’t favor open primaries.

But the funny part to me is where he states:

The corrupting influence of money in politics is at the heart of congressional dysfunction. We can use this election to spur on campaign finance reform and make meaningful changes to the system. We can start by bringing transparency to election spending, making politicians reveal the sources of “dark money” campaign donations – donations that currently have no limit. I support the DISCLOSE Act, which requires all organizations spending money in elections to file reports that include donors of $10,000 or more.

Did I not just say the guy has a SuperPAC with six donors of $25,000 or more working on his behalf? Shouldn’t he take the leap and say this? I suppose that would be considered coordination (and that’s a no-no) but there’s more than a wink going on here.

Neal’s next priority is jobs, which is fine. But this line is priceless, too, given my context:

As a CEO who has led five companies, I have extensive experience connecting and persuading other business leaders,

He’s persuaded a lot of them to pony up $2,700 or more, that’s for sure. And Neal is a little behind the curve: why eliminate just one existing regulation for every new one when we have a President axing twenty or more per new one? That’s more my speed.

And then we come to health care, where Simon says:

First, we have a moral obligation to provide adequate, affordable health care coverage to its citizens.

Actually, no we don’t – at least not at the behest of government, because government is not the solution to the problem. I would argue that government is causing many of the problems, particularly when it comes to costs. To make health care affordable we have to create the conditions where it can become more affordable – unfortunately, government does a poor job of that on a national level.

Simon then addresses an 800-pound gorilla in our room:

If we don’t get our debt and spending problems under control, inflation will have a disastrous effect on jobs and the economy. Currently, our interest payments alone amount to $310 billion—the fourth largest budget item after Social Security, defense, Medicare and Medicaid.

The last I checked, only one of those items is mandated in the Constitution, and it’s not the entitlements. Yet, starting at the top, no one wants to do anything about any of those EXCEPT cut defense spending. I can agree to that to a point in that we don’t need bases in practically every nation, but the sad truth is we don’t know where the next hotspot will be and we’ve taken it upon ourselves to be the world’s cop. So there we stand.

Where Simon truly loses me though is where he’s part of the “path to citizenship” crowd and gets into the realm of what he calls “common sense gun safety laws.” Basically if you were mad at Larry Hogan for flouting the Second Amendment you won’t be much for Simon either.

So to me it’s rank hypocrisy for Simon to say on his website, “Government should represent ‘We, the people’ – not the party bosses or those who can buy access to power,” (my emphasis) yet have the donor list he has and a PAC working for his cause. It’s just more politics as usual. Neal is a guy I wouldn’t mind sitting down with for a political discussion (at least he seems down-to-earth judging from a brief chat we had at the Tawes event) but I don’t think he has much in common with anyone politically right of center. This is especially true when you look at his own donation record, which is very left-leaning: out of $11,000 Neal has donated over the years, $8,000 has gone to Democrats and left-leaning PACs, with $2,500 going to fellow independent Craig O’Dear and an almost random $500 donation to Mitt Romney in 2011.

Having said that, though, I still wish Neal all the success in the world – in taking votes away from Ben Cardin. Wouldn’t it be funny (and great for Maryland and the nation) if his campaign splits the Democrat vote enough to send a Maryland conservative – who would all but kill to have the bankroll the People Over Politics PAC has, let alone nearly 100 max donors – to the United States Senate?

Considering the alternative is Tweedledum with a D or Tweedledee with an I (who, based on political philosophy, will probably caucus with the Democrats anyway), you may as well elect someone who has principles.

An argument for change

A few weeks ago freshman Senator Ben Sasse from Nebraska made what is called his “maiden speech” on the Senate floor, and it was a thoughtful critique of the Senate’s rules and the partisan arguments that the body has devolved to.

He cited a number of Senate icons: Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who Sasse praised for his curious nature; Margaret Chase Smith, who was unafraid to question those in her own party – even when she agreed with them on principle; and Robert Byrd, who cared most about the Senate as an institution. I realize this is about a 30-minute speech, but you can break away from the Ravens or Redskins game today to take the time to listen – and avoid having the foibles of those two losing teams spike your blood pressure.

In all seriousness, though, two of the points Sasse makes regard the constant travel and fundraising as well as the reflexive talking points they need to recite to create soundbites for the voters back home. It’s really not supposed to be that way, and to me Sasse’s speech can be part of an argument I have made over the last several years.

When you consider what the legislative branch was originally supposed to be, it’s clear that the House was supposed to be of the people, who, if they found out the person they sent to represent them was a scoundrel, only had to wait two years to toss them out. To those who argued at our formation, it seemed like an appropriate enough time for representatives to establish themselves and still be accountable.

On the other hand, Sasse notes that an argument was made by some of the writers of the Constitution that Senators should have lifetime terms. As it was, they agreed Senators should have lengthier tenures of six years.

Yet the key differences between the House and Senate as originally applied was the latter’s equal representation from each state and their selection by the respective state legislatures rather than the voters. Each state, regardless of population, was entitled to two members of the Senate – it was the result of a compromise between larger states which thought they should have a larger share of the say in our affairs and smaller states which felt like they should get their voices heard as well. Thus, little Delaware and its fewer than 60,000 inhabitants at the time would have equal status in one house of the legislature with Virginia, which had a population over ten times greater. While we now have the concept of one person, one vote for our states to abide by in all their legislative bodies, including their equivalents to the national House and Senate, the Senate was excepted.

Prior to the adoption of the Seventeenth Amendment in 1913, the Senate was inhabited by whichever two people the state legislature deemed worthy for the job – thus, you had statesmen and scoundrels alike, with absenteeism an ongoing issue. As part of the Progressive movement of the early twentieth century, direct election of Senators by the people was proposed and ratified. Fast forward a century and what do you find? Statesmen and scoundrels, who now have to hustle for campaign cash to be re-elected every six years and don’t always show up, either. While the argument can be made that the Senate is far more accountable now, it doesn’t seem to give the people any more faith in Congress. So why not revert back to the old way?

For one thing, we’ve seen the interests of states recede in our political system. More and more, the states are becoming simple lines on a map that give out different colored license plates because the federal government runs roughshod over their interests. Indeed, there is a Constitutional supremacy of the federal government but this should stop at affairs each state should be equipped to handle on its own.

Sasse alluded to the short-term thinking of the Senate in this era, and that’s also reflected in the body’s makeup. Several successive “wave” elections have radically changed its makeup, reflecting voter preference of the day: the leftist tide that ejected the Republican majority and brought Barack Obama to office at the end of last decade yielded to the rightward TEA Party wave that retook the House for Republicans in 2010 and the Senate four years later. Had the Senate been insulated from the fickle nature of the voter, change would have been more gradual. Certainly, ascending Republican fortunes on a state level would be gradually shifting the Senate rightward, but at a slower pace.

Restoring the pre-Seventeenth Amendment method of selecting Senators would also make state legislative elections far more important, as chances would be great that at least one Senator would come up for reappointment during a term. States that value diversity, moreover, could make their own waves with their appointments and not leave it to the will of the voters. Also, without the worry about advocating a politically incorrect viewpoint – lest their opponents make a campaign commercial out of it – Senators would be more free to speak their minds and engage in the style of debate Sasse advocates.

It’s generally the Left which advocates for getting money out of politics, so what better way would there be than to take the direct election process for Senators out of the hands of the voters entirely? Just in Maryland alone, it’s a certainty that the candidates running for the open Senate seat on the ballot next year will spend $15 million or more to get through a contested primary and general election because they have to secure more votes (at least in the Democratic primary, where much of that $15 million will be spent) than Sen. John Barasso did to easily win his 2012 election in Wyoming. To keep his Senate seat from Wyoming, Barasso got 184,531 votes – that total would have placed him a distant second in the 2012 Democratic Senate primary here in Maryland, let alone being an also-ran in the general election. And Maryland, in turn, is small potatoes compared to states like California, Texas, or Florida.

This may seem like a counter-intuitive argument to make from one who has forcefully argued that our local school board should be elected for accountability’s sake. But I agree with Sasse that the bureaucracy in the federal government has become its fourth branch, one which is contributing to the imbalance between the legislature and executive branches. Currently we have an executive run amok, although he’s just the latest in a string to do so. It’s a philosophy expressed by the phrase attributed to Clinton advisor Paul Begala: “Stroke of the pen. Law of the land. Kinda cool.”

Directly or indirectly, the people were made responsible for at least a portion of two of the three branches of government, electing a House of Representatives and a slate of presidential electors that rarely stray from the party line of how the state as a whole voted. Their interests were balanced out by the states, represented in the Senate, and the judiciary which wasn’t selected by the people but by the executive with the permission of the Senate. (This insulated them from undue influence.)

In the manner of “progress” we have moved to a system where Senators are just another class of politicians. Certainly I have my favorites among the group, but as a whole I think we may be better served by going back to the original system. We realized the mistake of the amendment following the direct election of Senators (Prohibition) and repealed it in short order, so there is precedent for removing this error as well. Let’s bring back the balance.

“The Kochs don’t have Michael Swartz.” So what do they have?

The Democrats send me the silliest e-mails sometimes.

Today they are whining that “The Koch Brothers plan to spend nearly $900 million to buy the 2016 election.” After I laughed, my first question to them was, “so?”

I saw the news pieces about this yesterday (here’s one) and it rolled off my back like water off a duck. Listen, I know there are people who will spend a lot of money on politics simply because they can, and as it turns out the Koch brothers are perhaps the leading conservative/libertarian donors. The Democrats don’t have a cow about the hundreds of millions bundlers and grifters on their side plunk down on the races; suffice to say that both sides do this.

But $889 million is a lot of money – heck, I’d be happy to see 1/100 of 1% of that come my way. And the great thing about the Koch brothers is that they wish to limit government, not expand it and try to cut themselves a slice of the pie.

Ever since the Citizens United decision, the liberals have cried that we need to get money out of politics. This wasn’t altruism at work, though – since most of the media outlets favor Democrats, conservatives not being able to pay for advertising and speech at election time gave the Left an advantage. That’s not to say spending more money always leads to a positive electoral result – if it did, we would be in the early days of the Brown administration, for example – but oftentimes the funding is better for incumbents and they tend to win re-election at a significant rate. Taking that advantage away helps to level the playing field.

Of course, I can see my liberal friends all worked up over someone like the Koch brothers, who are just very successful businessmen spending their money on politics. It’s better than yet another palatial mansion or a fleet of private jets, right? But compare that amount to the overall budget of just one county in Maryland – granted, it’s the largest one at a population of about one million – and $889 million is chump change. In the grand scheme of things, spread out over multiple states, it’s not a great deal of money in comparison.

So I’m glad the Democrats are whining. I don’t think there should be a limit in campaign spending because to do so would be counterproductive. My campaign spending may be miniscule in comparison to the Koch brothers, but between Kim and I we have just as many votes and that’s the key.

Catching my breath

After a tremendously busy last few days, I’m finally able to catch my breath a little bit and take stock of where we are.

At the top of my site since last Thursday is the reporting on early voting trends. To me, this is key because it’s not something Republicans have adapted to despite the pleas from the state party – until this year. As a whole in the state, Republicans and Democrats are utilizing early voting at the same rate which indicates turnout may be a tick or two better than expected for the GOP. And remember, polling is released based on a turnout model that they attempt to predict will hold true for the election, but there are so many variables. At this stage weather doesn’t appear as it will be a factor, though.

I just finished downloading the last of the pre-election financial reports for most of those on the ballot locally in contested races. There may be a minor scandal here because I noticed District 37B candidate Rod Benjamin didn’t have a report on file yet – he’s submitted affidavits of limited contributions and expenditures through his campaign, but still has to file timely or face a $20 daily fine that comes out of his own pocket. In the last few days before the election I’ll distill the numbers and see if any new trends develop.

By now I’m sure you’ve heard about the irregularities in voting machines in some areas; a phenomenon addressed by the state Board of Elections. But how about irregularities in support? Some local Republicans are outraged about two photos which have appeared on Facebook.

The photos were reportedly taken at a recent fundraiser for current Wicomico County Executive Rick Pollitt, who is a Democrat. In the top photo second from left is outgoing County Council member Stevie Prettyman. In the bottom photo is, left to right, County Council members Matt Holloway and John Hall along with Pollitt and Salisbury City Council president Jake Day. All three Council members pictured are Republicans, a trio which generally votes opposite Republican County Executive candidate Bob Culver (who is one of two to consistently oppose Pollitt.) While Prettyman is leaving, Holloway is in a good position to be re-elected since only one Democrat filed for two at-large posts, and Hall is unopposed for a District 4 Council seat.

My take on this: of course I’m disappointed with these Republicans attending a fundraiser for a Democrat, but the time to address this will be 2018 primary. Just file it in the memory bank.

And then we have this which just came to my attention from the Maryland Pro-Life Alliance.

Contrast that, if you will, to opponent Mike McDermott’s support for pro-life causes such as the recent Eastern Shore Pregnancy Center dinner.

Jim Mathias has spent thousands of dollars – much of it money from PACs and out-of-district – trying to convince District 38 voters he’s “always working for you.” But the question is whether simply voting for or against a particular issue is “working.” As a member of the majority party, he’s in the position where his negative vote can be made with little consequence except to placate the people back home. He doesn’t stick his neck out and publicly testify at a pro-Second Amendment rally or participate in a pro-life march, despite the fact his district would welcome that with open arms. We’re just supposed to count the effort and not the results.

But there are more important items to deal with – I’m watching Game 7 of the World Series.

District 38 Senate: Mathias vs. McDermott

A few weeks ago I promised to start once again looking into where our candidates get their money.

The first race I wanted to delve into on the financial end was the District 38 Senate race between incumbent Democrat Jim Mathias and challenger Republican Delegate Mike McDermott. As you’ll see in the link, Mathias has the clear financial advantage.

This file is something I composed as a composite which includes all four financial reports due since the beginning of 2014 – the 2013 annual, the two pre-primary reports, and now the first pre-general report.

So we can see that, in this race, incumbent Democrat Jim Mathias has raised a lot of money compared to his opponent, who is also an incumbent in the House of Delegates. Mike McDermott was more or less forced to run for a different office thanks to being squeezed into a single-member district with fellow Delegate Charles Otto by Democratic gerrymandering.

Where did the money come from? More than most others whose financial forms I’ve studied, Mathias gets a lot of donations from ticket sales, presumably to his relatively frequent fundraisers both in the Ocean City area and occasionally across the bridge. Almost 2/3 of his income came that way, with most of the rest being PAC contributions. Having looked as well at the records of his fellow Democrat incumbent Delegate Norm Conway, it’s apparent that PACs are very happy to give plenty of money to Democratic incumbents, but not so much to Republicans because Mike McDermott has negligible PAC money compared to Jim Mathias.

Moreover, there are a lot of big-money donors from Ocean City (and beyond) who have opened up their wallets for Jim Mathias, while only a handful are supporting McDermott. Given the huge disparity in money allotted to fundraising – for every dollar McDermott has spent on fundraising, Mathias has forked over $17.30 – it’s small wonder there’s a big gap in cash on hand.

It’s also worth mentioning that nearly half of Mathias’s total spending has gone to one entity – Rice Consulting of Bel Air, a frequent client of Maryland Democrats. Whether directly or as a pass-thru to other entities, Mathias gave $37,320.16 to Rice Consulting out of $78,388.97 spent.

McDermott has used a pair of outside consultants: Campaign On out of Owings Mills for $3,087 and Scott and Associates of Annapolis for $5,000. That represents about 40% of McDermott’s spending, but it’s going to media rather than fundraising and “strategic incumbency protection,” which are Rice Consulting’s specialties. Personally, I’d prefer strategic taxpayer and citizen protections.

It’s also worth pointing out that several current and former Annapolis and Baltimore Democratic elected officials have chipped in for Mathias from their campaign accounts:

  • retired Delegate Ann Marie Doory: $100
  • District 6 Delegate and State Senate candidate John Olszewski, Jr.: $150
  • District 11 Delegate Dan Morhaim: $250
  • retiring Baltimore County Councilman John Olszewski, Sr.: $450
  • retiring Delegate Brian McHale: $1,000
  • District 40 State Senator Catherine Pugh: $1,000
  • retiring Delegate James Hubbard: $2,000
  • retired Senator (and onetime Congressional candidate) Rob Garagiola: $2,250
  • District 13 Delegate and State Senate candidate Guy Guzzone: $6,000

The only elected official contributing to McDermott’s side thus far is Wicomico County Republican Central Committee-elect member Greg Belcher, who donated $154.18 in closing his election account.

So it’s very obvious that Maryland Democrats and their patrons are throwing the kitchen sink into keeping this seat. Mathias has a war chest which will likely land him some television time and allow him to once again carpetbomb the district with full-color mailings which obfuscate his real record.

But it’s also a fact that Mathias only won one of the three counties in the 38th District last time, winning in Worcester County by just enough to overcome his deficits in Somerset and Wicomico counties. He outspent Republican opponent Michael James $300,835.32 to $225,556.44 in the process, so indications are he will be able to spend the same amount (or more) this time.

Next up will be a look at the Senate race in District 37. My plan is to do each local district on a Tuesday or Wednesday, so look for the other Senate race after Labor Day.

The $6 million man

Yesterday this gem came to my attention via my inbox. It’s from Ken Timmerman, who’s the running mate of gubernatorial candidate Charles Lollar.

You may have heard Charles say it: if elections in Maryland were only about the money, Michael Steele would be our U.S. Senator.

He outraised Ben Cardin by a good margin in 2006 – and lost.

Political commentators were making the same mistake today in the news reports about this candidate qualifying for public financing, and that candidate not.

Here’s the dirty secret about public financing in Maryland: it actually handicaps a campaign in the general election.

That’s right. Any Republican campaign for governor that accepts public financing will be limited in how much they can raise and spend.

Don’t believe what some candidates are telling you about their ability to get millions of dollars from these public funds – which they absurdly claim are not taxpayer dollars.

Here is the truth: any campaign that accepts public funds is limited to total spending of $2,586,124.21 – and that amount includes so-called matching funds they get from the taxpayer.

Don’t take my word for it: click here to read the rules on public financing from the State Board of Elections.

Bob Ehrlich raised over $10 million in 2006 – and still lost.

We expect will raise $6 million for the general election, and probably more.

Because we have run a lean campaign, leveraging the sweat equity of our volunteer army over the past 18 months, we expect to do much more than other campaigns with less money.

We already have pledges from the Republican Governors’ Association and other outside groups to throw millions more into the race – money that will not be available to a candidate limited to the $2.6 million spending cap imposed by the state as a condition to receive public financing.

I hope I’ve been clear enough in explaining this. A candidate who accepts publc (sic) financing will lose in November because of that hard spending cap, which includes money spent by associated groups.

Charles and I need your help now to win the June 24 primary, because we know we can win in November.

We can win in November because we have been laying the groundwork these past 18 months in Democrat strongholds – something none of our Republican competitors have not done.

You can’t start reaching out to Democrats after the primary and expect them to listen. We have already built those relationships, and have Democrats for Lollar in Baltimore City, the Eastern shore, and in Prince Georges and Montgomery counties. Some of these groups are campaigning for us openly, and some of them waiting until after the primary to support us.

So, don’t believe the hype. Join us for the real deal.

I probably didn’t need to add the final half-dozen paragraphs, particularly with the misspelling and glaring double negative (proofreading is your friend!) but my reading of the law confirms what Ken says – regardless of what others may say, this is the expenditure limit. The seed money certification also reads:

Furthermore, we certify that we will not expend in either the primary or the general election an amount in excess of the maximum spending limitation set forth by Election Law Article §15-105.

The prescribed amount was originally 30 cents for every resident in the state, but adjusted for inflation works out to the $2.6 million or so. However, the hook that could save Hogan is this line:

A gubernatorial ticket that accepts a public contribution from the Fund for an election…

Let’s say Hogan accepts the $275,000 he’s eligible for in the primary and wins. As I read it, the cycle begins anew with the general election because they’re considered separate entities. If he doesn’t take a dollar once the general election cycle begins one reading of the law would suggest that he has no spending limit. It’s an issue which would probably be dragged into court, sapping resources from Hogan at a time when he’s trying to challenge a well-funded Democrat (unless fellow public finance participant Heather Mizeur somehow secures that nomination.)

In any case, it would only make a further mockery of the public financing system which is enriching a heretofore primarily self-funded campaign. But I also want to turn my attention to the fundraising prowess Timmerman claims – if only Charles can get through the primary.

This may seem like a stupid question, but if there are outside groups willing to fork over that much money wouldn’t you think they could spare a half-million to get Charles through the primary? After all, I get e-mail every day touting a challenger here, a TEA Party favorite there…granted, these are generally for seats in Congress but would it not be a feather in someone’s camp to upset the establishment and elect a black conservative governor in Maryland? Yet I haven’t seen those appeals or that funding – perhaps it’s lost with Ben Carson’s endorsement. (On that note, if Carson endorsed Lollar’s health care plan, as Charles has claimed, wouldn’t you think it would be a prominent issue on his campaign site?)

Having said all that, if Charles loses on June 24 I hope he’s front and center at the June 26 unity dinner promising to continue spreading the message in those minority areas about the benefits of conservatism. It’s the one asset he’s brought to the campaign, and the trick is to make it a transferable one. Timmerman pointed this out about Michael Steele who, despite the racial component, still lost badly in minority-dominated areas to a white Democrat. (Steele only received about 7,000 more votes in Prince George’s County – his home territory – than Bob Ehrlich did. Both were swamped there by lopsided margins.)

All of us know we need to do better in those areas to have a chance to elect Republicans, but I’m also sure the Democrats will do what they do best and play the race card. Lollar’s outreach has to be the beginning of a process spanning several election cycles, and not the end.

Hogan: coordination allegations “absurd and false”

This was a pretty quick response to an accusation over three years in the making. I’ll begin with fellow candidate Ron George’s perspective, which is reflected in statements within from David Craig’s campaign:

Today, the Ron George & Shelley Aloi for Maryland campaign joined the Craig-Haddaway for Maryland campaign in filling a complaint with the Maryland Board of Elections alleging illegal coordination between between Change Maryland, LLC and Larry Hogan’s various campaign committees.

“These actions by Change Maryland, LLC and Larry’s campaign committees represent an egregious breach of the public trust and utter disrespect for the law. We expect candidates for public office to hold themselves to a higher standard. These laws are designed to promote transparency,” said David Craig.

“The public should know where contributions are coming from and where they are going; It’s a matter of public trust. Furthermore, they should expect those who want to make more laws follow the laws we already have,” said Delegate Ron George.

On January 31, 2014, Change Maryland, LLC filed its most recent contributions and expense report for the period of January 1, 2013 through December 31, 2013 listing total contributions received of $145,995 while expending $213,040.

“We believe that all current and prior activities of Change Maryland, LLC appear to be directed by Larry’s campaigns and those activities should be considered part of his gubernatorial campaign for reporting purposes. With this complaint, we are asking the State Board of Elections to investigate. If the Board of Elections doesn’t, we can expect organizations in the future to skirt campaign finance laws to hide where their money comes from and where it goes. I hope the Board of Election agrees with us that the process should be transparent and uphold the integrity of law,” said Paul Ellington, campaign manager for Craig-Haddaway for Maryland.

Hogan responded, almost immediately:

“The entire premise of these allegations by two desperate campaigns is utterly absurd and patently false.  Had David Craig and Ron George bothered to do even a cursory check, they would have seen that the “about” page at Change Maryland’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ChangeMaryland/info) and website (www.changemaryland.org), clearly states Paid for By Hogan-Rutherford to Change Maryland.   In short, Larry Hogan for Governor owns Change Maryland and has since he became a candidate.

Unlike David Craig’s campaign which has already been found guilty and fined for violating campaign laws, our campaign has worked closely with the Maryland Board of Elections to ensure from day one that we comply fully with all state laws.”

Background:

Before starting his campaign for governor, Larry Hogan’s team sought guidance from the State Board of Elections on whether or how Change Maryland, a 527 political organization, could interface with a campaign for governor, also a 527 political organization.  The guidance received was that Hogan for Governor could purchase the assets of Change Maryland much like campaigns purchase mailing or contact lists from any other organization.  Immediately upon registering as a campaign for governor, with the SBE, the campaign entered into a purchase agreement for all of Change Maryland’s assets at fair market value.

Obviously there’s the question of how they determined what “fair market value” was, but we’ve known for three years that Change Maryland could be a handy vehicle to keep Hogan’s name in circulation after his abortive 2010 campaign. The question came up on one of his first interviews  as Change Maryland leader, with Maryland Reporter‘s Len Lazarick.

As far as the market value, if you look at the first Hogan financial statement the apparent “fair market value” for Change Maryland is $18,164.05, which is listed as an “asset purchase” made April 7. It was about 2 1/2 months after the campaign was formed, and the “contact list” pales in comparison to what the campaign had paid to date for mailings – for that purpose, the Hogan-Rutherford campaign spent nearly $121,000 employing a New York-based firm called SCM Associates during the initial months of its campaign. It was almost as if someone thought at the last minute, “hey, we better cover ourselves on this one.”

I’ll admit I’ve had campaign finance questions about my unusual situation of being a blogger and candidate for which I’ve sought advice from the Board of Elections, but $18,000 seems to be a lowball estimate for an organization whose 527 clearly states it churned through over $350,000 last year, raising over $140,000 by itself in a year when only one of the opposing candidates did as well.

So we have found out that the “perpetual campaign” is not just a Barack Obama phenomenon. Obviously he wasn’t going to admit it publicly, but all along many have suspected that Change Maryland was simply the lead-in to the 2014 Larry Hogan for Governor campaign – after all, why bring up a past campaign if you’re not running, as this archived Change Maryland page shows – just as any number of PACs created by particular failed candidates were formed as a way to keep their name in the limelight and (more importantly) create a donor database.

The beauty of Change Maryland, though, was that contributions to it didn’t count against a contribution limit to Hogan for Governor, and there’s little doubt that list is being mined again. In one respect, it’s a stroke of genius and perhaps there’s some sour grapes from the others about not coming up with the idea themselves. After all, we could speculate back in 2011 when Change Maryland was formed that David Craig and Charles Lollar were probably going to run in 2014, along with perhaps Brian Murphy and maybe even Michael Steele. (The entry of Ron George was a little bit more out of left field.)

These accusations, however, served to blunt the news that Hogan had reached the seed money threshold required to qualify for matching funds.

By qualifying for matching funds, the Hogan campaign is guaranteed $2.6 million immediately after the primary.  The Hogan campaign has received contributions totaling over $600,000 from more than 3,000 contributors since formally entering the race in late January. By reaching the matching funds threshold, will also receive over $260,000 in Fair Campaign Finance Act matching money.  In all, by qualifying for the match, the campaign says it will spend over $4 million “taking on the political establishment.”

Obviously Hogan has to win the primary to cash in, and that’s by no means certain when “undecided” has such a big share of the electorate. Classifying his opponents as desperate seems a little premature, and it may be a pretty tense couple days before the party’s unity rally slated for June 26.

I don’t think anything will come of this, but there is the potential for an October surprise if Hogan wins the primary and the Board of Elections indeed decides there’s some fire among all the smoke. I trust the other side about as far as I can throw them.

Running out of steam?

I don’t think anyone else has picked up on this, but in the middle of an otherwise boilerplate appeal for donations I came across this tidbit, from May 8:

The incredible response our campaign has already received demonstrates that Marylanders are ready for a change.

In our first 100 days, we have raised over $533,000 from more than 2,400 donors, raising more — with three times more contributors — than one of the leading Democrats in the race, Attorney General Doug Gansler who raised just $306,000 in the first 100 days of his campaign.

In fact, we have over twice as many donors in our first 100 days than Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown did – proving that with broad grassroots fundraising support, this race can be won.

Let’s roll the tape, shall we? Here was Hogan on April 11:

In the first reporting period of his campaign for governor, Larry Hogan raised $422,000 in mostly small donations from more than 1,800 individuals. The sheer amount of money raised puts the Anne Arundel County business owner and grassroots leader on par with where Lt. Governor Anthony Brown was at this stage of his campaign but with nearly twice the number of donors.

The early haul puts Hogan ahead of where Attorney General Doug Gansler was 68 days after his announcement and approaches the combined amount raised by his Republican challengers in the last calendar year.

If you translate the message as I do, this means he’s still behind Brown and ahead of Gansler. But the latter isn’t as relevant because Doug had much more money available to him when he formally launched a gubernatorial campaign because he was unopposed in 2010.

More importantly, I’ll remind you that Hogan actually raised nearly $454,000 in the first 68 days, according to a published report. (His campaign finance form shows total receipts at just over $487,000, which includes a $100,000 loan to himself and over $30,000 from various other internal sources.) That translates to just under $6,700 per day and makes the income rate over the last month of about $2,500 per day look fairly weak. One would think the frontrunner would be doing better in fundraising per diem as the election gets closer.

This is particularly true because the social media end of Hogan’s campaign continues on its 2014 pace of about 130 new “likes” a day. But those social media accolades aren’t translating as well into checks. And considering Larry spent far more on the race than anyone else during the early days of the campaign, to a point where his cash on hand was probably equal to or somewhat behind David Craig’s, one has to wonder if the wave has crested. Some of the discussion we had on Saturday pondered that very point.

It will be most helpful once we get “apples-to-apples” financial statements at the end of the month. But not participating in debates and assuming all of your grassroots will be covered by social media seems to me an odd method of running a serious campaign. It would be interesting to see the internal polls of the candidates because I’m not convinced that Hogan remains the frontrunner after such a lackluster month.

Campaign 2014: a (second) look at finance

If this post looks fairly familiar to you, I’ll explain why.

Back on January 22, I did the original post which bears the “look at finance” title above. Because I wanted to keep the same format while adding the newest information from Larry Hogan as a compare and contrast, I’m essentially reprising the earlier post with the additional information. If Larry Hogan can do apples-to-oranges comparisons of campaign finance, I can too. Everyone will be even with the pre-primary report due at the end of next month, but for now this will have to suffice.

*********

For each category, I’m going to do a rank order among the seven gubernatorial contenders who have filed a campaign finance report. Six of these were filed in January covering 2013, with the seventh being Larry Hogan – he announced his campaign in late January so his first report was due last week and covered the period through April 8. For the purpose of this exercise, I’m ignoring the minor candidates who did not file a campaign finance report as they are generally perennial candidates who raise little money.

To begin this comparison, it helps to know how much was raised during the 2013 period, which is about a week off the actual calendar since it ended January 8, 2014. For Hogan this runs from February 3 to April 8 – it’s a much shorter timeframe but has the advantage of being much closer to the primary.

  1. Anthony Brown (D) – $4,019,803.13
  2. Doug Gansler (D) – $1,487,704.79
  3. Heather Mizeur (D) – $493,173.55
  4. Larry Hogan (R) – $487.073.56
  5. David Craig (R) – $249,808.75
  6. Ron George (R) – $130,159.00
  7. Charles Lollar (R) – $65,329.67

Another piece of this puzzle which interests me is trying to figure out an average contribution. But rather than count the actual number of line items, I decided it was easier and far faster to assume there would be a certain number of contributions per page. This is the number of pages of contributors each report had.

  1. Anthony Brown (D) – 358
  2. Heather Mizeur (D) – 202
  3. Larry Hogan (R) – 197
  4. Doug Gansler (D) – 125
  5. David Craig (R) – 58
  6. Ron George (R) – 46
  7. Charles Lollar (R) – 36

So if you assumed 17 contributors per page, the average donation per contribution would comes out like this for the 2013 reports. In Hogan’s case, there are two provisos: his report is formatted a little bit differently so there are only about 12 per page; in addition, he loaned his campaign $100,000. So his average will be based on those revised numbers.

  1. Doug Gansler (D) – $700.10
  2. Anthony Brown (D) – $660.50
  3. David Craig (R) – $253.36
  4. Larry Hogan (R) – $206.04
  5. Ron George (R) – $166.44
  6. Heather Mizeur (D) – $143.91
  7. Charles Lollar (R) – $106.75

Something I found intriguing, particularly in Lollar’s case, was the fact that several contributors were serial repeaters. Some campaigns seem to have a feature where a donor can use an automatic monthly withdrawal, but in Lollar’s case it appears to be through PayPal and a large share of his backers tended to use that feature. That made for dozens of pages of expenditures on individual PayPal fees, which doesn’t seem to be a very efficient use of what turns out to be hundreds of campaign dollars a few pennies at a time, particularly on a $10 monthly donation.

Now let’s look at where the overall take came from. In all cases, the overwhelming majority of funds came from individual donations. But Charles Lollar took the cake there.

  1. Charles Lollar (R) – 100%
  2. Heather Mizeur (D) – 99.53%
  3. Ron George (R) – 98.12%
  4. Doug Gansler (D) – 97.5%
  5. David Craig (R) – 93.19%
  6. Anthony Brown (D) – 91.65%
  7. Larry Hogan (R) – 78.51%

I think there is a glaring mistake in Lollar’s totals, though, as I think the $6,000 transferred in from Blaine Young’s shuttered gubernatorial campaign probably should count as being from what the Board of Elections calls “Maryland candidates or slates” and not as an individual contribution. Based on overall 2013 totals, that would actually put Lollar near the bottom of the list. But he’s not the only one who made mistakes, as I found PAC money interspersed with individual contributions on a number of reports, along with missing addresses and the like.

In Hogan’s case, the $100,000 loan figures into the sum. While it doesn’t reflect in these totals, for interest of disclosure it should be noted that Hogan made another $5,000 in direct donations, $25,000 more came from LLCs affiliated with Hogan’s business interests (more on that later), and another $18,838.64 was made in in-kind donations. In all, 30.6% of Hogan’s money came from his own pocket.

Without changing the Lollar numbers, here’s the percentage of contribution some of these six received from other candidates or slates.

  1. Anthony Brown (D) – 3.27%
  2. David Craig (R) – 0.64%
  3. Doug Gansler (D) – 0.52%
  4. Larry Hogan (R) – 0.08%

The others received none.

But how about state PACs? I would have thought they comprised a much larger share of the pie, but none of the candidates received more than a tiny percentage of PAC money.

  1. Anthony Brown (D) – 3.13%
  2. David Craig (R) – 2.8%
  3. Larry Hogan (R) – 0.88%
  4. Heather Mizeur (D) – 0.44%
  5. Doug Gansler (D) – 0.42%

Neither Ron George nor Charles Lollar were beneficiaries of PAC money. Obviously in terms of actual dollars there’s a huge difference between Brown and Craig, but percentage-wise they are fairly even.

Oddly enough, though, Ron George leads in the percentage coming from political clubs. I think it’s based on one contribution.

  1. Ron George (R) – 1.88%
  2. Anthony Brown (D) – 0.21%
  3. Heather Mizeur (D) – 0.04%

Again, it’s a matter of scale – Brown’s largess from political clubs is nearly fourfold more in actual dollars. The lieutenant governor is also the sole beneficiary of federal committee money, to the tune of $69,000.

Since individual contributions are such a large part of the game, though, I wanted to take a closer look at where they came from. To that end, I decided to categorize appropriate donations into one of five categories, if they fit – most did not, while some fit more than one.

  • percentage from LLCs, LLPs, trusts, and other similar financial arrangements
  • percentage from law firms, as I could reasonably ascertain same (inexact, to be sure)
  • percentage from unions, although most give as PACs and I didn’t track those this time
  • percentage from businesses
  • percentage from out-of-state – in contrast to a federal race where out-of-state money is to be expected, it struck me that some campaigns leaned heavily on donors outside Maryland

I’ll start with the LLC category, which is being addressed for the next election cycle. Some believe it’s too easy to skirt contribution limits by maxing out a donation as an individual then shelling out more under the guise of an LLC. Each candidate got some LLC money, but some more than others.

  1. David Craig (R) – 25.16% of individual contribution money
  2. Larry Hogan (R) – 24.5%
  3. Anthony Brown (D) – 17.58%
  4. Doug Gansler (D) – 14.2%
  5. Ron George (R) – 4.69%
  6. Heather Mizeur (D) – 3.56%
  7. Charles Lollar (R) – 0.58%

Heather Mizeur is low on some of these categories because individual contributions from certain entities, like LLCs and businesses, could not be counted toward her matching funds for public campaign financing. Larry Hogan received a lot of individual contributions, but many of them exceeded the $250 allowed to be counted toward the match.

I sort of expected this result from law firms, although percentages were lower than I figured on.

  1. Doug Gansler (D) – 3.6%
  2. Anthony Brown (D) – 0.73%
  3.  David Craig (R) – 0.6%
  4. Larry Hogan (R) – 0.27%

They were the only four receiving contributions from what I reckoned were law firms. Even if I were wrong on a few, Gansler took that category with ease.

The same was true of unions, where Democrats Anthony Brown (0.59%) and Doug Gansler (0.07%) were unsurprisingly the leaders.

And if you thought pay-to-play was the rule in Maryland, well, you may be correct. The individual share from businesses went like this.

  1. Anthony Brown (D) – 17.38%
  2. David Craig (R) – 15.33%
  3. Doug Gansler (D) – 12.6%
  4. Larry Hogan (R) – 7.43%
  5. Ron George (R) – 5.09%
  6. Charles Lollar (R) – 2.85%
  7. Heather Mizeur (D) – 0.17%

Maryland may have one of the worst business climates in the country, but the big, established players must like the way competition is curtailed in the state. Some of the largest businesses in the country gave big checks to Brown and Gansler, with health care businesses propping up Brown and some large technology firms backing Gansler.

Finally, I thought it was telling who got support from out-of-state. This may be controversial because I counted Washington, D.C. addresses as out of state and surely some business people who are Maryland residents wrote checks based on their place of business. But I had to draw a line somewhere and the results are telling to me. These figures represent the percentage of individual contribution money drawn from out of state.

  1. Heather Mizeur (D) – 36.63%
  2. Doug Gansler (D) – 32.67%
  3. Anthony Brown (D) – 25.55%
  4. Charles Lollar (R) – 7.09%
  5. Larry Hogan (R) – 5.65%
  6. Ron George (R) – 4.11%
  7. David Craig (R) – 3.87%

In the cases of Brown and Gansler, it seemed like much of their out-of-state take came from the District of Columbia, while Mizeur’s came from all over the country. Yet if you considered Takoma Park and Silver Spring as part of another state (sometimes we here on the Shore consider them another country) I believe Mizeur would have been over 50 percent. Does everyone in Takoma Park have an extra Benjamin to spend on her race? Seems like it.

This final category shows that Maryland Republicans can’t seem to nationalize this statewide race as they could recent federal races with Dan Bongino and Andy Harris, for example. This is a pity because what better encouraging message to conservatives than a Republican winning in Maryland?

*********

Now to the present day.

In going through the Hogan report, I noticed a few interesting items regarding the LLCs which contributed to his campaign: a number of them shared the same address. The worst offender: a group of LLCs which list as their address the domicile of St. John Properties. Combined, these LLCs gave $30,000 to the Hogan campaign as well as $5,500 to David Craig. And they’re bipartisan, since Anthony Brown and Doug Gansler also have contributions from that same address – it may be the nerve center of political donations in the state. In Hogan’s case, he even rents his office space from St. John.

While he has a dog in this fight as one of those who’s running for the state’s highest office, I’ve found Ron George is a good go-to expert on campaign finance laws since he helped write many of the reforms taking effect next year. So I asked him about this situation as it relates to those in the race. Replied George:

The LLC loophole allowed Brown to get around $68,000 from one guy that created many LLC’s. That will stop after January 2015, but even though we increased the aggregate total limit, there will not be one because of the recent Supreme Court ruling. The limits to each candidate will still be law but we increased the $4,000 amount.

I also wanted some clarification on how the $250 matching funds worked, and Ron had that answer as well:

All “individual” donations (in Maryland law that means those from private individuals) can only be matched “up to” the first $250. So, yes, an aggregate amount of $500 can only have the first $250 matched.

The reporting periods became law this year, thus a couple more were added. The BOE software is keeping track of the matching fund qualifying money in a separate spread sheet.

Based on the numbers I found, and even deducting for the overage on many contributions – which ranged up to the maximum $4,000 allowed and then some in one case – it appears Hogan has, or shortly will have, enough seed money to fully qualify for matching funds in the primary.

But a glaring figure stuck out at me. As of the close of the reporting period, Larry Hogan had $167,748.15 on hand. I’ll grant Larry’s spent a lot on media already, but just as a reminder this is what the others had back in January:

  1. David Craig – $154,577.02
  2. Ron George – $15,449.89
  3. Charles Lollar – $5,731.35

If David Craig simply held serve and raised enough to cover his expenses for the first three months of the year, the two are basically even going forward. Obviously Ron George and Charles Lollar lag well behind, but since he had the chance to respond to my question George added this assessment of the situation:

Hogan is still playing the perception game. Many started to think he had a lot of money so they began to back him, but even his numbers are not so good. If he did not donate to his own campaign, he would be at my levels. That puts it in perspective. My three months of not fundraising did hold me back. But people should not count me out. It is still wide open and Hogan sent many fundraising letters out when I could not. I had a responsibility to serve my oath of office to which I was elected. Many felt I should have resigned like Palin did so I could raise money, but I felt I owed my constituents that voted me in.

As a gentle correction to Ron, Sarah Palin didn’t resign as governor until after she and John McCain lost in 2008. I think he was thinking of Bob Dole in 1996.

But Ron’s assessment of Hogan’s situation isn’t all that far off if you back out the nearly $150,000 Hogan has provided directly or indirectly to his campaign. Unfortunately for George, money is fungible and right now that cash is sitting in Larry’s campaign account ready to use, along with the possible volunteers that spending nearly $6,500 on Facebook advertising can whip up. It’s also why Hogan has a fairly significant lead in the polls despite the fact he’s not been queried much (if at all) on key issues like education, the environment, the Second Amendment, and agriculture.

The campaign playing field should be leveled May 27 when all of them have to file the first pre-primary report. For all contenders save Hogan, it will cover the time period since the 2014 Annual Report was due; in Hogan’s case we can combine this recent report with the next one to show an apples-to-apples compare and contrast with all the candidates on both sides. It’s about time.

A qualified success

He may not be much for participating in debates, but by the standard I set a few days ago Larry Hogan is a more-than-successful fundraiser. Today his campaign released a press statement claiming that the Hogan juggernaut raised $422,000 from over 1,800 individuals in just 68 days. (The official numbers are due next week, so this is a preliminary tally.)

Speaking on this, Hogan was thankful for the generosity:

Thanks to our supporters, volunteers and staff we’ve surpassed our outreach and fundraising goals.  The incredible outpouring of support from middle class voters across our state shows that Marylanders want a governor who’ll put working families and small businesses ahead of Annapolis elites.

Yet a quick look behind the numbers reveals a few interesting things.

First of all, it appears that many of the donations are maxing out the $250 allowed for matching contributions, as the average works out to about $234 per. So you’re getting your share of smaller numbers, but it’s likely the report will show a high number who pitched in the most allowed. Moreover, it bears pointing out that Hogan only promised to use matching funds in the primary, so there’s a lot of room for these donors to come back and upgrade to the maximum $4,000 allowed should Hogan win in June. This may be a shrewd strategy to compete in the general election.

But I found the comparisons to other campaigns at the 68-day stage a little disingenuous, because they’re apples and oranges. Eighteen months out from an election is generally not prime fundraising time, and no contender makes a whole lot in the summer before a campaign year – for example, David Craig raised about $250,000 in each of the last two years but it was clear he wouldn’t rest on those laurels and fundraising wasn’t a big push at the time. As long as candidates have enough to keep the lights on a year out, they’re happy, so saying that his campaign is more popular than the others based on that fact alone is a little misleading.

We also don’t know how much cash on hand any of the campaigns have, and going forward at this stage that’s a far more important number. With Hogan making a television ad buy, some part of that $422,000 is already spent.

Yet as time goes on, it’s becoming more clear we may be looking at a two-person race, unless the campaign finance reports of Ron George or Charles Lollar show they’ve cut into the significant fundraising advantages David Craig already enjoyed and Larry Hogan has appeared to establish. Grassroots support is great, and taking the message to underserved areas helps build the Maryland GOP for the future. Reaching nearly a million Maryland GOP voters, however, isn’t free, and there’s a reason it’s called broadcasting – media reaches a huge number of people other methods do not.

These warm and fuzzy commercials Democratic contenders are putting out are simply to build a brand association, because very few of those voters are going to look at the issues until the end, if at all. The more discerning group on the GOP side is fine with questioning the record of the incumbents, but they’ll want a little more depth when all is said and done.

As a closing aside, David Craig is going to try and raise a little money on Sunday as he hosts a fundraiser of his own:

Please join the Eastern Shore’s own Jeannie Haddaway and me on Sunday, April 13th at Sailwinds Park in Cambridge.

Our friends from all over the Eastern Shore and across Maryland will be gathering for fresh seafood, cold drinks, and good times. The event will be held from 12pm-4pm. Tickets are $60 in advance and $70 at the door. Tickets can be purchased by clicking here.

I will say that based on the forecast he is going to luck out in that respect. Next thing you know we’ll be sweating in Crisfield, but only one GOP gubernatorial candidate will be there as a nominee.

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