The Money Chase, April Update: Secretary of State

Here's the latest look at the money chase for the Secretary of State race.

In late February, GOP candidate Rick Dancer entered the race. He's in the chart now, though he's hardly raising any money yet. (But to be fair, he's raising for November, while the rest are raising for a a May election.)

Also, Brad Avakian is no longer a candidate for Secretary of State, so we've pulled him from this chart.

Last month, Kate Brown led her nearest competitor, Rick Metsger, by $244k. This month, her lead is up to $271k - in part due to a big $25k donation from OEA on 3/27. Vicki Walker is up to $88k, and Rick Dancer likely can't make payroll at just $4k.

Brown's daily pace (over 90 days) has jumped dramatically from $1124/day to $1741/day. Metsger has moved up strong from $720/day to $1044/day. Walker is down slightly from $303/day to $279/day. Rick Dancer has started slowly - just $196/day.

Here's the box scores and the charts:

last updated3-29-20083-28-20083-17-20083-25-2008
2007 starting balance$95,771$40,178$11,678$0
current total$449,874$178,211$88,529$4,123
cash contributions5751461647
average contribution$602$920$454$584
daily pace (last 90)$1,741$1,043$278$45
daily pace (last 30)$2,685$1,771$367$137

Technical notes on the jump...

We retrieved this data from ORESTAR on April 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.

  • Cash On Hand (unverified)

    Since no paid voter contact has been done by any campaign, it also is helpful to look at cash on hand, because the amount each campaign drains out of their PAC on overhead becomes relevant as we get closer to the election day.

    This is how much each campaign has on-hand and available for their media buys:

    Brown: $188,246 Metsger: $120,986 Walker: $28,415 Dancer: $71.82

  • fundraiser (unverified)

    The "current total" in this assessment adds together each candidate's beginning balance before initiating their SOS campaigns and money raised. Please do not read the "current total" as total amount raised for their respective SOS campaigns.

    If you want to determine how much each candidate has actually raised for their SOS candidacy -- the number you hear most about as an indicator of candidate viability -- subtract each candidates' 2007 beginning balance from their "current total" and you will arrive at a number reflective of their performance in attracting financial support for their respective SOS campaigns.

    For example, in rounded numbers: Metsger as raised $138k; Brown has raised $355k; and Walker has raised $78k.

  • (Show?)

    While I agree that cash on hand can be a skewed stat, I think that unless Brown has done all of her television production already and the others haven't her overhead might be a big problem. Metsger's in a great position closely trailing Brown in money and able to draw from his much higher name ID from years of being on TV.

    Dancer's fundraising is a hilarious joke at this point, and I hope it stays that way till November

  • JHL (unverified)

    Last time, the Money Chase post devolved into a debate about the merits of using cash-on-hand vs. cash raised. And Kari said: Don't just criticize. Offer a suggestion.

    Ok. Here's my suggestion.

    Here's a Register-Guard story about a poll in the Secretary of State race. (To save people the click, it goes: Metsger 14, Brown 12, Walker 9, Avakian 4, Undecided 59)

    Imperfect yes, because this poll is now old. So ideally, there's an updated poll somewhere... maybe one of the campaigns will volunteer their results since one of them just spent a pile of money on a pollster.

    So sure, the far majority of the voters are undecided as of yet... but so is the far majority of money yet unspent. So if we're talking handicapping, strong/weak, or spending efficiency, can't we set those points against the money that's been spent already? (I.e: How much money does each campaign have to spend to "earn a point" in the Riley poll?) And then set THAT efficiency benchmark against cash-on-hand.

    FYI, I don't know if I used OreStar correctly, but it looks to me like since they got into the race, here's what everyone spent:

    (note - these figures are as of the last Money Chase story... seems useless to recalculate until there's another poll released)

    Brown: $182,300 (15,191 per Riley Poll point) Walker: $36,638 (4,070 per Riley poll point) Metsger: $27,789 (1,985 per Riley poll point)

    ...And current cash on hand, with the number of additional points the campaign could theoretically "buy" with that cash.

    Brown: $188,250 (12 more points) Walker: $28,415 (7 more points) Metsger: $120,986 (61 more points)

    Now, there are a LOT of flaws with this idea. First, it doesn't take incoming cash into account. Second, it doesn't take into account that these results may be signs of campaign strategy -- some campaigns may want to have a strong out-of-the-gate showing while others take a tortoise-steady approach and plan to step it up closer to the election.

    But I hope that this at least adds to the discussion and shows that there are more very-relevant factors floating around than just aggregate cash raised.

  • LT (unverified)

    Apparently this is a common complaint:

    I don't know if I used OreStar correctly

  • James X. (unverified)

    My question is always, "Is it two syllables or three and does it stand for something?"

  • (Show?)

    Yes, it does indeed stand for something:

    Oregon Elections System for Tracking and Reporting

    The way I've heard it said was with three syllables.

    A lot of people aren't quite sure how to search with ORESTAR and if they're understanding everything correctly. It'll take a little while to grasp how to use if if you haven't done much work with it before. I've used it since it started and went to a training on working with it, so I'm probably a bit better than some. But whenever I'm not sure of something, I go and look in the user manual.

  • (Show?)

    At the risk of repeating things others have said in previous threads, I have to agree with Kari on the value of cash in hand. It's easy to take JHL's model and say that Metsger is obviously getting more bang for his buck. But (and I think JHL hints at this his/herself) the problem with that is we're not looking at how the money is being spent. If the two campaigns are spending money on the same things (albeit Brown considerably more) then obviously Metsger's campaign is far more efficient and at an advantage going into the home stretch.

    But odds are the money is being spent on different things. Let's hypothetically say Metsger has thus far spent all of his money on field work. He's spent a little on campaign literature, a little bit on organization, and the rest on busing a small group of volunteers around the state stumping for votes. All that voter contact has given him the lead (albeit a small one) in the polls.

    But say Brown has spent large amounts of money polling the crap out of the state, compiling a detailed voter list, has built up a massive campaign organization in every county including paid staff and a volunteer corps, and has created all of her lit and a lineup of tv ads. She has a huge political machine that can efficiently target voters all around the state and drive up her name id in the last 4 weeks, and all she has to do is flip the switch. Meanwhile, Metsger has not adequately prepared and thus his campaign is far less effective and efficient.

    Obviously this is an extreme example. But if Brown has outspent Metsger 5 to 1, and they're tied in the polls, something tells me that money must be going somewhere else. So, unless someone wants to decipher and detail what every campaign expenditure on ORESTAR is getting the campaign, cash on hand isn't a good measure of a campaign.

  • Chris (unverified)

    All of this is just silly when you look at the numbers. In the next two months Democratic voters in Oregon are going to be blitzed with mail and media from the most intense presidential primary in recent memory and a competitive Senate primary. There could be $10 million poured into mail and media buys in the next two months.

    Now, with that in mind, even if all the candidates fundriase their respective butts off over the next month and raise an additional $100,000 (which is unlikely, at best) that would put our money leader at about $250,000 to spend on voter contact accounting for overhead costs. That is enough to put together a modest mail program or a bare bones cable buy.

    Simply put, it's a drop in the bucket. The SoS race is going to be completely lost in the shuffle of the presidential race. At this point, the first person listed on the ballot would be my favorite to take the nomination.

    PS. Name ID is important, but Metsger folks, don't get too excited about his Name ID. As the Register-Guard poll suggests all those years on TV have earned him ID numbers in the teens or low-twenties. Lets not build the guy up like he's Tom Brokaw.

  • (Show?)

    JHL's concept also assumes that every candidate started at zero on 1/1/07, and only earned "poll points" by spending money raised in this cycle. It also assumes that each point costs the same; that costs and popularity rise linearly together. In short, that there's an amount of money that could win you 100% of the vote, and that $0 equals 0 votes.

    Imagine for a moment that John Kitzhaber filed for this race on filing day, and had raised exactly $1000. It wouldn't be unreasonable if he started out the race at 50% in the polls. So... he would have spent $20 per point, and for just another $1000 he could get to 100%.

    Obviously, this is silly.

  • (Show?)

    p.s. My company built Kate Brown's website, but I speak here only for myself.

  • Randle McMurphy (unverified)

    I hate to rehash the debate, but cash on hand is an important variable, particularly before the candidates have purchased media (as in the SOS and AG races). I recognize that cash on hand does not lend itself to a perfect apples-to-apples comparison, but nobody who has worked on a campaign would deny its relevance. Nobody. If you disagree, try to keep a straight face while posting that Treasure Mackley and Ryan Tribbett aren't paying attention to cash on hand.

    At the risk of belaboring the point, permit me an absurd hypothetical: assume a candidate in either the SOS started that campaign with $1 million cash on hand but declined to not raise money. The Blue Oregon post in its current format would suggest the candidate is almost irrelevant (a la Dancer). In fact, the candidate would be almost unbeatable. My point is evaluating a race requires consideration of all data, including cash on hand.

    I propose that we list cash on hand with the other variables and let readers analyze the data however we wish. Some people will overrate the significance of cash on hand (particularly if one of the candidates has already purchased television) while others will underrate it. The Blue Oregon comment section is made for such discussions.

  • Randle McMurphy (unverified)

    I was writing quickly, so there are a few typos in my comment, but you get the point.

  • (Show?)

    I hate to rehash the debate, but cash on hand is an important variable, particularly before the candidates have purchased media (as in the SOS and AG races).

    But it wouldn't be out of the ordinary for that media to already be purchased, just not used yet.

  • (Show?)

    OK, Randle....

    According to COH up above, the current COH numbers are:

    Brown: $188,246 Metsger: $120,986 Walker: $28,415 Dancer: $71.82

    On May 1, let's say that Brown is down to $25,000 and Metsger is up to $150,000.

    Who's stronger?

  • Randle McMurphy (unverified)

    Most large-scale purchases of telephone or mail can be discerned from Orestar. Also, although not obvious from Orestar, I believe you can tell when television has been purchased.

    Can somebody out there verify that campaigns can monitor television purchases?

  • Randle McMurphy (unverified)


    The answer to your question regarding which candidate would be stronger is totally situational, which is why we should include as much relevant data as possible. You cannot transform the art of campaign evaluation into a pure science. Pure apples-to-apples comparisons cannot capture the whole picture.

    If Brown spent all her money on overhead, Metsger would be in superior condition. By contrast, if Brown made an early television buy, she would be in good shape, particularly if heated Presidential and Senate primaries increased the cost of television purchases in May (thereby reducing the relative value of Metsger's cash on hand).

    I have no idea what will happen in these races, but such uncertainty is not an argument in favor of ignoring cash on hand. Rather, we should report all relevant information in order to best illuminate an uncertain situation. Let Blue Oregon readers argue over what the data reveal.

  • Democratic Strength (unverified)

    Randle writes:

    "The answer . . . is totally situational, which is why we should include as much relevant data as possible."


    Kari is right that CoH can be misleading in some circumstances, but the Current Total number he uses can be equally (or more) misleading.

    For example, in the "Legislative Caucuses" post, the Current Total dramatically understates the House D lead over the House Rs. The House Rs low CoH isn't because they've prepaid for October 2008 TV commercials, its in large part because they wasted enormous amounts of money during 2007.

    In the end, it seems the best approach would be to list both "Total Raised" and "Cash on Hand" in future box scores.

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  • (Show?)

    Randle.... In other words, you and I agree 100%.

    As I wrote last month:

    Looking at cash-on-hand is definitely something that matters, but it's hard to evaluate in a box-score kind of way. Maybe Brown has bought an excessive number of snacks for the campaign office (bad) or maybe she's already paying for television ads (good). That's stuff that's excellent fodder for research (go ahead, it's all on ORESTAR) but putting the cash-on-hand number in a box score doesn't illuminate anything.
  • Randle McMurphy (unverified)

    We have beaten this fairly technical point into the ground. We only disagree in that I believe cash on hand should be included with the other data.

open discussion

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