The Money Chase, March Update: Legislative Caucuses

Here's the latest look at the money chase for the House and Senate party caucuses.

Actually, not much has changed since last month - since the House and Senate were in session for most of the month of February. The House Democrats and Republicans appear to have abided by House rules prohibiting fundraising - and it seems that the Senate Democrats voluntarily shut down their fundraising. Senate Republicans kept their (relatively anemic) fundraising operation working through the session.

Last month, the House Dems led the House GOP by a margin of $208k - and were extending their lead by $1900/day (over the previous 90 days.) This month, the House Dems lead by $224k - and are extending their lead by $1700/day.

Last month, the Senate Dems led the Senate GOP by a margin of $120k- and were extending their lead by $500/day. This month, the Senate Dems lead by $106k - and are extending their lead by $250/day over the last 90 days. (Over the last 30, the Senate GOP was gaining on the Dems by $844/day. Expect that to shift back, now that session is over.)

Here's the box scores and the charts for the four campaign committees.

 Senate DemsSenate GOPHouse DemsHouse GOP
last updated2-25-20082-21-20082-26-20082-25-2008
2007 starting balance$47,883$30,321$104,542$79,910
current total$353,677$246,832$631,518$406,581
cash contributions207115282133
average contribution$1,433$1,778$1,840$2,082
daily pace (last 90)$1,350$1,101$3,140$1,421
daily pace (last 30)$478$1,322$2,035$860



Note: The official names of the committees here are Senate Democratic Leadership Fund, The Leadership Fund (Senate GOP), Future PAC (House Dems), and Promote Oregon Leadership PAC (House GOP). These numbers do not include any dollars raised by individual candidates.

Technical notes on the jump...

We retrieved this data from ORESTAR on March 1, 2008. Because campaigns can choose to delay their reporting up to 30 days, some recent data isn't available yet. The "daily pace" is based on the last 30 or 90 days for which we do have data. Our chart starts in July 2007 because most campaigns didn't raise money during the legislative session. The "average contribution" is based on actual cash contributions since January 1, 2007 - while the "current total" includes in-kind contributions, sold items, interest income, and the starting balance. Also, some campaigns lump together under-$100 contributions into a single line item - so the number of contributions may be slightly understated and the average contribution slightly overstated. In order to measure campaign strength, these numbers include the initial cash-on-hand on January 1, 2007 plus all funds raised since then.

Why not look at cash-on-hand? Because it doesn't lend itself to an apples-to-apples view. The goal is to provide a snapshot view that compares the financial strength of the statewide campaigns and legislative caucuses. Does a low cash-on-hand mean that a campaign is failing to raise money? Or does it mean that they're spending money on big-ticket items like polling, direct mail, and television? We assume that campaigns spend money in whatever way they think is most strategically smart. So, looking at the total funds raised since January 1, 2007 (plus the opening balance that day) is the best snapshot of overall financial strength.

  • (Show?)

    One quibble: The Democratic Party is both grander and older than the Republican Party. They can call themselves "GOP" if they want, but why should we?

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    Oregon's lack of campaign contribution limits means that the GOP can surpass the fund raising lead with a single contribution. In 2006, there were at least 50 contributions of $100,000 or more to GOP candidates and/or causes.

    Also, the two sides handle fund-raising differently. The Democrats tend to funnel more money through the caucuses and party pacs than is the case for the GOP. A higher percentage of their money goes directly to candidates.

    To put all of this into a proper frame of reference, GOP candidates outspent their Democratic opponents in every targeted house race in 2006, save one.

    They spent more on ballot initiatives, and nearly double what the Democratic candidates spent in the Governor's race.

    There is no real reason to suspect that the basic numbers will change all that much in 2008 with Gordon Smith and the House Republican candidates being the primary beneficiaries.

    The real story on fund raising is that the business lobby is now giving more to Democratic candidates than it is to Republicans. That's a double-edged sword, since such contributions usually come with a price.

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    We assume that campaigns spend money in whatever way they think is most strategically smart.

    By definition I guess this is true, but just because a campaign deems something "strategically smart" does not objectively mean that expenditure is actually helping. I can spend $10,000 on buttons, chotskies and nick-nacks, but that doesn't mean it's a good idea.

    I <u>always</u> pay attention to cash-on-hand and think it's an incredibly important indicator of financial strength. I've been on the other side of a campaign that outraised my effort by several million, but burned through money to the point of parity when it was time to pay for direct voter contact. So of course looking at the amount of money in the bank matters.

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    Charlie, you're absolutely right. For the campaigns involved, the cash-on-hand is very important. More to the point, campaigns actually look at the individual expenditures.

    If your opponent is spending money on donuts and bumper stickers, you celebrate. If your opponent is spending money on TV ads, you brace yourself.

    The point is that simply putting the cash-on-hand in a box score doesn't illuminate anything. You gotta dig deeper and actually look at what people are spending on -- which is WAY beyond the scope of these monthly reports.

    That said, I'd absolutely LOVE it if someone would do a post now and then on what campaigns are spending their money on - and give us an evaluation on who is being smart and who is being dumb.

  • LT (unverified)

    Money doesn't always decide outcomes. Some people care passionately about their candidate and even if that candidate doesn't win (esp. in a Republican district) that kind of passion (and the connections formed among local folks in the course of campaigning) is something money can't buy.

    Also, some legislative campaigns actually feature intelligent debates about the issues of the day.

    Today there is a guest opinion about a topic sure to be debated in the 2008 legislative campaigns.

    The real reason that Oregonians should consider embracing annual legislative sessions, as well as other legislative reforms, is to fix Oregon's lopsided balance of political power. Let me be blunt: Oregon has a very weak Legislature. The power of the Legislature to make real change has been consistently and dramatically reduced over the past several decades. Upon cursory analysis, some might suggest that this is good -- less opportunity for legislative overreach.

open discussion

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